Canine Influenza Virus

News stories have been going around about the spread of canine influenza.  The “doggy flu” is one of the viral causes of kennel cough.  Because canine influenza is a relatively new virus in the United States, most dogs have not been exposed to it and have no immunity to it.  Canine influenza can strike dogs of any age, breed, or vaccine status.

Canine influenza is easily spread just like human flu:  through droplets from sneezes and direct contact with respiratory secretions.  The virus doesn’t live long outside the environment, so is usually caught with close contact with an infected dog.  This could be at the dog park, doggy day care, or the groomer, to name a few places where large numbers of dogs congregate.

If your dog interacts with large numbers of dogs, he or she should be vaccinated for canine influenza.

The symptoms of canine influenza are typical of kennel cough.  While most dogs recover in one to three weeks, a few develop more serious symptoms.  Symptoms of canine influenza include:

If canine influenza is quickly diagnosed and treated, dogs usually recover without a problem.  Deaths usually occur from secondary infections, such as pneumonia.  It is very important to take dogs with canine influenza or any of the symptoms of canine influenza to the veterinarian for medical care.

Veterinarians will typically run routine blood work to diagnosis canine influenzia.

Because canine influenza is a virus, there is no specific medicine available to treat it.  However, supportive care and appropriate treatment of secondary infections are important.  Your veterinarian may advise the following until your dog gets over the flu:

Most dogs get over canine influenza in ten to thirty days.  The cough is the most troublesome symptom for most dogs and their owners.  However, secondary infections, especially pneumonia, require medication and can take much longer to heal.  Pneumonia can put your dog in the hospital.

If you think your dog has canine influenza, take him or her to the veterinarian for treatment.

Humans cannot catch canine influenza.  However, your dog can give it to other dogs, so you need to isolate your dog while sick.  No dog parks, doggy day care, or grooming until he is completely well or he will give it to other dogs.

If you foster or work with multiple dogs, there are some special precautions you can take.  Make a plan with your veterinarian about what to do if there is an outbreak at your place.  Routinely monitor dogs for signs of illness and keep detailed medical records.  At the first sign something is wrong with one of your dogs, isolate him and take him to the veterinarian.  Wear gloves when handling that dog or cleaning out his cage or space.  Wash your hands between handling him and your other animals.  Finally, remember that canine influenza is usually a very treatable disease.