You may have been hearing about Canine Influenza on the news. What is it? How can your dog get it? Can humans or other animals get it? What are the clinical signs of an infected dog? How can you protect your dog? How can veterinarians diagnose flu? What should you do if your dog is coughing or showing signs of illness?
What is it?
Dog flu is caused by a highly contagious virus. In dogs there have been two strains reported: H3N8 and more recently H3N2. H3N8 emerged in a group of racing greyhounds in 2004. H3N2 appeared this year in Chicago. Canine influenza has been reported in all states surrounding Missouri. It’s likely only a matter of time before it makes it within our borders.
How can your dog get it?
Dog flu is spread by bodily secretions gone airborne (ie, sneezes and coughs). Not only can your dog get the disease directly from other dogs, he can get the disease from objects or people that have had contact with an infected dog. It takes 2-4 days from exposure for dogs to start showing signs of illness. Unfortunately, dogs shed the most virus before the first signs of illness and continue for about 1 week.
Can humans or other animals get it?
At present, there is no evidence to support transmission from dogs to humans. The H3N2 has been reported to infect cats, but more research is needed.
What are the clinical signs of an infected dog?
Infected dogs show signs of respiratory illness: nasal discharge, congestion, and coughing. Dogs infected with influenza have very similar signs to dogs with “kennel cough.” Most dogs with influenza will develop a cough that can persist for up to 3 weeks despite treatment with antibiotics and cough suppressants. Some dogs can get pneumonia.
How can you protect your dog?
We offer a vaccine that protects dogs from the H3N8 strain. This vaccine “significantly reduces the severity and duration of clinical illness, including the incidence and severity of damage to the lungs” (AVMA 2015). The vaccine also reduces shedding of the virus and thus spread. So not only can vaccination prevent suffering of your dog but also the dogs around you! If your dog is already coughing, please keep your dog away from other dogs for at least 2 weeks! If you take your dog to dog parks, lodging facilities, training class, or anywhere there are other dogs, we recommend vaccination. Please wash your hands after petting dogs.
How can veterinarians diagnose flu?
We cannot diagnose influenza only from clinical signs. There are multiple tests that we can perform to confirm influenza. One of the best ways is by testing the blood for antibodies. If we suspect influenza in your dog, we may recommend submitting 2 blood samples taken 2 weeks apart to a lab.
What should you do if your dog is coughing or showing signs of illness?
If your dog is sick, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Please keep your sick pet isolated from other dogs. Call us at 573-857-3647 to schedule your appt!