If you’ve been in recently or have taken your pooch to boarding facilities, groomers, or dog parks, you may have heard talk about canine influenza. Perhaps we recommended the vaccine for your dog or you were told that Fluffy can’t have her bath without it. So, what exactly is this canine flu and why have you been hearing about it? At Dupont Veterinary Clinic, we’re here to help!
Canine Flu and You
Canine influenza is a contagious viral respiratory disease that’s been on the rise among dogs in the U.S. over the past few years. There are two strains of the canine influenza virus: H3N2 and H3N8. Both cause a similar infection.
Canine flu has not been a historically prominent disease, but we first saw the H3N8 strain in 2004; the H3N2 strain has been popping up more and more frequently. It doesn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon.
There’s been a major outbreak of canine influenza in the Chicagoland area since 2015, and it’s also hitting close to home recently with reported cases in Napoleon, Toledo, Cincinnati, and Dayton, Ohio, and possible cases in Columbus and South Bend, Indiana.
While the canine flu is related to the human influenza virus, dogs and humans (thankfully) get different strains. The disease is similar in both of us, though.
Both strains infect the host’s respiratory tract, causing mild to moderate cold-like symptoms, including:
- Fever (typically 104 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Nasal discharge
Most pets recover with treatment; however, there have been fatalities related to canine flu due to a secondary pneumonia that can develop.
What’s a Dog Lover to Do?
Clearly, the canine flu is a serious disease that puts pets, especially those who interact with other dogs, at risk of infection. The good new is that you can take steps to limit your dog’s chance of becoming infected.
Know the bug. As with any infectious disease, knowing how it’s spread is essential to avoid infection. Canine flu is spread through infected respiratory secretions. The viral particles can remain on items in the environment (called fomites) and transfer infection. That means that exposure to shared items like food bowls, toys, and even clothing can be just as risky as nose-to-nose exposure. Anywhere that other dogs have been is a potential hot bed.
Consider your risk factors. Assessing your pet’s risk can help you take the necessary steps to protect them. The more social your dog, the higher the risk of exposure. Places like dog parks, grooming salons, puppy daycares, training classes, and even the pet store can be reservoirs of infection. Also consider your pet’s immune system. Very old, very young, or otherwise sick animals may have a higher risk of serious infection.
Get the vaccine. Thankfully, a vaccine has been developed that offers protection against the canine flu. The veterinarians at Dupont Veterinary Clinic are currently recommending the vaccination with the bivalent vaccine (protecting against both strains) for all our canine patients. Most kennels in the area are also beginning to require vaccination. Pets will need to receive two vaccinations 3-4 weeks apart to achieve protection.
Perhaps most importantly, pet owners should be vigilant and act quickly if they suspect their dog has the canine flu. Acting on the first signs of illness can prevent it from developing into something more serious and helps contain the spread to other pets. Call us right away if you suspect your pet could be infected. We’re always here to help!