As a dog owner, you may have heard about the canine Influenza virus (CIV) which has affected more than 1,200 dogs in Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana. Identified as H3N2, this new, particularly virulent strain has its origins in Asia and is a respiratory illness similar to kennel cough. It was first detected in 2004 in horses. An older strain of the virus (H3N8) has been detected in the area as well.
Although not contagious to humans, the virus may attack cats as well.
Because of all the misconceptions surrounding the canine virus, Bark Busters dog behavioral experts want to give you the latest facts to keep you and your dog as safe as possible.
How is the virus spread?
According to the ASPCA, the virus is easily transmitted between dogs through a combination of aerosols, droplets and direct contact with respiratory secretions. It can also be spread through contaminated objects (dog bowls, chew toys), and by moving contaminated objects or materials between infected and uninfected dogs. Dogs of any age, breed and vaccine status are susceptible to this infection and symptoms may range from mild to severe.
What are the symptoms to look for?
- Persistent and lingering cough
- Lethargic behavior
- Nasal discharge
- Poor appetite
- Difficulty breathing
What should I do if I suspect my dog has the flu?
If you suspect your dog may have the flu, immediately isolate your dog and call your veterinarian to schedule a test. One of the problems with CIV is that secondary complications, such as pneumonia, are quite prevalent. Besides a physical, your veterinarian may want to perform a complete blood count and clinical chemistry on the dog to see if there is an increase in the white blood cells. If pneumonia is suspected, an X-ray may be taken to view your dog’s lungs.
If your dog is infected, keep him isolated for at least 10 – 14 days from the onset of symptoms. Dogs are actually the most contagious before symptoms are present and can actually shed the virus for up to 14 days. Make sure to wash your hands frequently after contact with your dog. Clothing, equipment, and surfaces, should be cleaned and disinfected after exposure to dogs showing signs of respiratory disease.
How is the virus treated?
A vaccine for H3N8 has been developed, but its effectiveness in treating H3N2 (the newer strain) has not been thoroughly tested. Most dogs will fight the infection within 10 – 30 days, but if a secondary infection develops, antibiotics will be needed. The most important thing is to make sure your dog stays hydrated and rests as much as possible.
What can I do to protect my pet?
- Avoid pet-friendly areas like dog parks & grooming salons
- If possible, avoid taking your pet to a kennel or day care facility
If your dog is quickly diagnosed and treated for CIV, the fatality rate is low, so there is no cause for panic. Just be diligent about your sanitary procedures and avoiding areas where many dogs congregate.
For more information, please refer to the AVMA Pet Owner’s Guide to Canine Influenza and/or speak to your vet.
This by no means represents medical advice. Every dog owner should do their own research with their vet, to ensure they have all of the facts to enable them to fully protect and treat their dog. Presented by To Love a Canine Rescue and Bark Busters in the interest of canine health and well-being.