Canine Influenza: How You Can Prevent It
PetSmart Chris Brownlow
Canine influenza or “dog flu” is a relatively new strain of virus with symptoms that are very similar to kennel cough or Bordetella. According to Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine Baker Institute for Animal Health, canine influenza is highly contagious and in some cases, especially when pneumonia develops, even fatal.
This new strain was first discovered in January 2004 at a Florida greyhound track. The dogs' symptoms included fever and a soft, persistent cough. After 10-14 days, most of the greyhounds recovered, but a small number did die from the virus, according to a report published on the university’s web site. Other outbreaks at greyhound tracks were reported in states including Texas, West Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas and Wisconsin. The virus was also found in household and shelter dogs.
How it’s spread
According the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, nearly 100 percent of dogs that came in contact with the canine influenza were infected and because it’s so new, most dogs don’t have an immunity to it. It is not contagious to humans.
- The virus is airborne and is most likely transmitted by an infected dog sneezing or coughing on another
- It may also be transmitted through direct contact with contaminated surfaces like toys or dishes
- Infected dogs that do not exhibit symptoms can pass it other dogs
Symptoms of canine influenza can appear two to five days after a dog is exposed to the virus. They include:
- Soft, gagging cough that can last up to three weeks
- Nasal discharge
Currently there are no licensed vaccines, the report states, but treatments are available. If you believe your dog may have canine influenza:
- Consult your vet immediately
- Most mild forms of the virus can be treated with antibiotics
- Like humans, dogs with influenza need plenty of fluids and rest
- More serious cases may require intravenous fluids and antibiotics
How to prevent it
The University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine offers the following precautionary advice:
- Ask your dog day care, groomer, vet and fellow Pet Parents at the dog park if they know of any recent outbreaks of respiratory illnesses
- Listen for any news about outbreaks in your area
- Ask pet facility operators what steps they take to isolate illnesses
- If your dog has a respiratory infection or just recovered from one, limit his exposure to other dogs