What is canine influenza?
Canine influenza is a highly contagious respiratory infection of dogs that is caused by a virus. The canine influenza virus is closely related to the virus that causes equine influenza and it is thought that the equine influenza virus mutated to produce the canine influenza virus.
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.
What Are the Mild Symptoms of Canine Influenza Virus?
- Variable low grade fever
- Clear nasal discharge that progresses to thick, yellowish-green mucus
- Rapid/difficult breathing
- Loss of appetite
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?
The first recognized outbreak of canine influenza in the world is believed to have occurred in racing greyhounds in January 2004 at a track in
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 a facility if 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.
As long as good infection control practices are in place, pet owners should not be overly concerned about putting dogs in training facilities, dog parks, kennels, or other areas frequented by dogs. 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 your veterinarian so that he or she 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 now available. Vaccination should be performed once your pet has reached the 14 day post infection point. A booster vaccine then will be given 14 days after the initial vaccine to ensure immune response. 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). Dogs admitted to shelters should be vaccinated on admission.
For additional information and updates, please visit these websites:
American Veterinary Medical Association
University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine
Cornell University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Association of Shelter Veterinarians