Canine Flu

Coyne Veterinary Services

Canine Flu Information and Fact Sheet

What is Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD)?
CIRD is a complex syndrome involving multiple pathogens. Some of the pathogens that make up CIRD are Bordetella bronchiseptica and mycoplasma which are the most common viruses involved. Other causes are thought to be the reovirus, canine adenovirus type 2, canine herpes and Canine Influenza Virus (CIV). While all of these organisms can contribute to the disease, most cases of CIRD are the result of numerous organisms acting together.

What is canine influenza?
Canine influenza is a highly contagious respiratory infection of dogs that is caused by a virus. The first recognized outbreak of H3N8 canine influenza occurred in racing greyhounds in January 2004 at a track in Florida. Since then it has been found in over 40 states. We have been offering the vaccine since it was made available in 2009.

The first recognized U.S. outbreak of H3N2 canine influenza occurred in 2015, starting in Chicago and spreading to other Midwestern states. This is the FIRST ANYONE has ever seen this flu in the United States.

Two clinical syndromes have been seen in dogs infected with the canine influenza virus-a mild form of the disease and a more severe form that is accompanied by pneumonia. About the mild form-Up to 80% of dogs will experience the mild form of the disease. Dogs suffering with the mild form of canine influenza develop a soft, moist cough that persists for 10 to 30 days. Some dogs have a cough similar to the "kennel cough" caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica/parainfluenza virus complex. For this reason, canine influenza virus infections are frequently mistaken for "kennel cough." Dogs with the mild form of influenza may also have a thick nasal discharge, which is usually caused by a secondary bacterial infection.

About the severe form-Up to 5% of dogs experience the severe form of the disease. Dogs with the severe form of canine influenza develop high fevers (104ºF to 106ºF) and have clinical signs of pneumonia, such as increased respiratory rates and effort. Pneumonia may be due to a secondary bacterial infection.

Because this is a newly emerging disease, almost all dogs, regardless of breed or age, are susceptible to infection and have no immunity. Virtually all dogs that are exposed to the virus become infected and nearly 80% show clinical signs of disease. Fortunately, most affected dogs have the mild form.

Can Dogs Die From Canine Influenza Virus?
If CIV is quickly diagnosed and treated, the fatality rate is quite low. Deaths are usually caused by secondary complications, such as pneumonia. It is very important that dogs with CIV receive proper veterinary care.

How widespread is the disease?
There have been 40 States thus far that have been affected by this emerging disease. These cases occurred in animal shelters, humane societies, rescue groups, pet stores, boarding kennels, and veterinary clinics. Any dog that comes in any contact with others dogs is at risk.

How Is Canine Influenza Treated?
Because CIV is a virus similar to the flu in humans, there is no specific antiviral medication available. However, supportive care and appropriate treatment of secondary infections are important. We advise the following to soothe your dog while the condition runs its course:

  • Good nutrition and supplements to raise immunity

  • A warm, quiet and comfortable spot to rest

  • Medications to treat secondary bacterial infections

  • Intravenous fluids to maintain hydration may be needed

  • Workup and treatment for pneumonia if no improvement on oral antibiotics

Be advised, while most dogs will fight the infection within 10 to 30 days, secondary infections require antibiotics and, in the case of pneumonia, hospitalization.

Is canine influenza virus transmissible from dogs to humans?
To date, there is no evidence of transmission of canine influenza virus from dogs to people.

Do I need to be concerned about putting my dog in day care or boarding it at a kennel?
Dog owners should be aware that any situation that brings dogs together increases the risk of spread of communicable illnesses. Good infection control practices can reduce that risk but cannot totally stop the spread due to how contagious the disease is. There is no reason to be hesitant about our facility because correct sanitation measures have been taken to prevent future infections. Considering this is a new disease, when an outbreak occurs it may take up to a week before the boarding/kennel facility is cleared to house animals again to ensure the disease is cleared from the facility. 25% of affected dogs do not show clinical signs so prevention of the disease is not as easy as it sounds. An infected dog can be co-mingling with your dog and you would not even know it.

My dog has a cough...what should I do?
Schedule an appointment with our hospital so that we can examine and evaluate your dog and recommend an appropriate course of treatment. If canine influenza is suspected, treatment will usually focus on maximizing the ability of your dog's immune system to combat the virus. A typical approach might include prescribing an antimicrobial if a secondary bacterial infection is suspected and/or administration of fluids if your dog is becoming dehydrated. Canine influenza virus can be spread via direct contact with respiratory secretions from infected dogs (coughing, sneezing, barking), and by contact with contaminated inanimate objects. Therefore, dog owners whose dogs are coughing or exhibiting other signs of respiratory disease should not participate in activities or bring their dogs to facilities where other dogs can be exposed to them. Clothing, equipment, surfaces, and hands should be cleaned and disinfected after exposure to dogs showing signs of respiratory disease to prevent transmission of infection to susceptible dogs. Clothing can be adequately cleaned by using a detergent at normal laundry temperatures.

How to prevent from this happening again in the future:
Viral disease is usually best prevented through vaccination. There is a flu vaccine available for the H3N8 influenza strain. Vaccination should be performed once your pet has reached the 14 day post infection point. A booster vaccine will then be given 3 weeks after the initial vaccine to ensure an immune response. Since the H3N2 influenza strain is new, it is not yet known if there is any cross protection provided by the current influenza vaccine available. It is still recommended to give the current influenza vaccine to prevent infection with the H3N8 strain. Studies are being done to determine if any cross protection exists. Vaccination against other pathogens causing respiratory disease help prevent more common respiratory pathogens from becoming secondary infections in a respiratory tract already compromised by influenza infection. For these reasons, a veterinarian should determine which vaccinations are needed based on related risks and benefits and should administer these at least 2 weeks prior to planned visits to dog activity and care facilities (e.g., kennels, veterinary clinics, dog day care centers, training facilities, dog parks).

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