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All You Need to Know about Canine Influenza

All You Need to Know about Canine Influenza

Severe cough, runny nose, fever; these are all symptoms we dread getting during flu season and we take so many precautions to avoid them. What if your dog was suffering from influenza too? How would you know? What would you do? The most important question may even be, how would you prevent it? Here is all you need to know about Canine influenza and what pet owners need to be aware of and do to help their furry friends!

What is canine influenza?

Much like the human flu, canine influenza is an extremely contagious respiratory infection. There are two known strands of canine influenza in the United States. One strand making its first appearance in 2004, and the second strand outbreaking in 2015. The strand found in 2015 is identical to a strand found in Asia, which is thought to have directly been transferred from an avian influenza virus. The most recent strand has been affecting dogs all throughout the United States, since 2015.

How do I know my dog has canine influenza?

Dogs can suffer from a mild or severe form of canine influenza. Dogs suffering from the mild form can develop the following symptoms:

  • a persistent cough
  • runny nose with clear discharge turning to yellowish-greenish mucus
  • reduced appetite
  • lethargy
  • difficulty breathing
  • and a fever.

Thick discharge from the nose and eyes can be caused from a secondary bacterial infection. Dogs suffering from the severe form can suffer extremely high fevers of 104°F to 106°F and often show clinical signs of pneumonia.

Can other pets get canine influenza?

There have been reported incidences of the most recent strand of canine influenza found in cats. It is suspected that cats are not the only pets at risk. Guinea pigs, ferrets, birds, and other animals may be at risk for developing flu-like symptoms.  There is no evidence of canine influenza being transmitted to humans or vice versa.

Can my pet die from canine influenza?

Although there are reported deaths from canine influenza, it is estimated that this is only the outcome for less than 10% of the animals infected.  Death has been most common in older dogs with weak immune systems or dogs suffering from severe pneumonia. The majority of infected animals recover in 2 to 3 weeks.

What should I do if my dog or pet is infected?

If your dog is suffering flu-like symptoms, isolate them from any other pets and take them to a vet immediately. If influenza is suspected, your vet may administer fluids to keep your pet hydrated, antibiotics to help battle any secondary infections, and anti-inflammatory medications. This influenza will flourish in compromised immune systems, so the primary focus of your vet will be to strengthen the immune system.

How do I prevent my pet from getting canine influenza?

Well socialized pets are the most at risk of getting infected. If they frequent dog parks, kennels, or doggie daycares there is a high likelihood they could be exposed to the virus. Typically, all dogs exposed will become infected and 80% will begin to show clinical signs within a few days.

The answer is not to keep your pets out of these social settings, the answer is being an alert pet owner:

  • If your pet is infected keep them away from other animals.
  • If boarding your animal, talk to the clinic beforehand and ensure that the facility has not recently had influenza cases.
  • When playing at dog parks, be vigilant of the dogs your dog is interacting with and feel free to talk with the owners about any concerns you may have.

In 2009, a vaccine was developed against the original canine influenza strand, but there is no evidence that this provides protection towards the second strand. In November 2015, a vaccine was developed for the recent virus strand, but it has not been approved for use in cats. Consult with a vet to determine if vaccination is the best route for your pet.

Although canine influenza is not completely unavoidable, we can do our best to avoid putting our animals in harm’ss way. If infection occurs we can provide them with the exceptional care and comfort they need. As pet owners, it is our job to keep our loyal companions happy and healthy.




Image credit: Yoel Ben-Avraham


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