Hanford Veterinary Hospital Blog
During the winter, we typically think of cozying up by the fire, cooking warm and comforting foods, and…preventing the flu from visiting our homes and workplaces. But did you know our dogs can also get a form of the flu? Although it’s not at all related to the human flu and it’s not seasonal, the canine influenza virus is a growing threat to the health of our dogs.
Canine Influenza Virus Basics
There are two strains of the canine influenza virus (CIV), the most recent of which (H3N2) first appeared in March 2015 following an outbreak of respiratory illness in dogs in the Chicago area. There have now been a few thousand cases reported in 30 states and a few cases of cats being infected, as well. There’s no evidence that H3N2 can infect people.
CIV is spread through aerosolized respiratory droplets that are passed from dog to dog through coughing, sneezing, or barking. Dogs in close living quarters such as kennels, shelters, and daycares are at increased risk. It can also be spread indirectly through objects such as food dishes, collars and leashes, or people who have been in contact with infected dogs.
Common symptoms include:
- Frequent coughing
- Nasal discharge
Infected dogs may show signs between 2-8 days after being infected. Most dogs have a mild form of the disease, but some are more severely affected and can exhibit signs of pneumonia, including high fevers and increased respiratory effort.
Disease symptoms can be very similar to kennel cough and other dog respiratory illnesses, and many of their risk factors are the same. For these reasons, a CIV diagnosis can only be made using an advanced blood test.
The treatment for CIV is largely supportive care; good nutrition and nursing support can help dogs mount an effective immune response. Most dogs recover in 2-3 weeks. Secondary bacterial infections can occur, and if your dog has other diseases, is pregnant, or is at risk for tracheal collapse, your veterinarian will discuss other treatment and supportive measures.
Because the virus is so easily spread from dog to dog, it’s recommended that infected dogs (and those in the same household) be isolated for 4 weeks.
Prevention of this disease takes a village! If your dog is exhibiting any signs of respiratory illness, you may be asked to wait with them in the car until we can see you. We want to prevent the possibility of infecting other dogs in the waiting room.
Here are some other tips:
- If your dog is coughing, don’t take them to places where they’ll be in contact with other dogs. Save the groomer, dog park, or flyball meet for another day.
- If your dog has been diagnosed with CIV, we’ll discuss important isolation measures to protect any other dogs in the household.
- If your dog is sick, wash your hands often, and wash all clothes, shoes, surfaces, and instruments used to care for your dog.
- The CIV vaccine can reduce the risk for your dog. Vaccination may not prevent an infection, but there is some evidence it can minimize symptoms and shorten the duration of illness for your dog.
Ask us if your dog should be vaccinated for CIV. If your dog is exhibiting any troubling signs, please don’t hesitate to call us.