Canine Influenza

Bird Flu, Swine Flu, Seasonal Flu. Now we have to worry about Dog Flu as well? Many of our clients have called us requesting information about the newly released vaccine for Canine Influenza Virus (CIV). This is a Type A Influenza virus (H3N8) and it is not contagious to people.

Canine Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease of dogs that was originally an equine (horse) virus that developed the ability to spread to dogs, then later was able to spread between dogs. The horse version of the virus has been known to exist for at least the last 40 years. In 2004 several cases of an unknown respiratory illness were reported (initially in Greyhound kennels in Florida). Investigation revealed the pathogen to be the H3N8 equine virus that jumped species to dogs. Now it can spread efficiently among dogs.

Symptoms of this illness cannot be readily distinguished from other causes of respiratory disease (cough, runny nose, fever). Most dogs that contract canine influenza are mistakenly thought to have “kennel cough” which is infectious bronchitis caused by other viruses or bacteria. Because this is a new virus there is very little natural immunity in the canine population. Approximately 80% of infected dogs will have very mild symptoms. 10 to 20 % of dogs may progress to a more serious form of the disease (pneumonia), and the fatality rate among symptomatic dogs is 6 to 8%. These statistics are similar to those for human influenza. The course of the illness is 2 to 4 weeks. Most cases of CIV have occurred in kennels and shelters in Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Colorado and California.

Not all dogs with CIV need to be treated. Though there is no specific treatment for influenza. Supportive care such as antibiotics to control secondary bacterial infections may occasionally be used, especially if fever, thick nasal discharge (pus) or pneumonia are noted.

A vaccine for Canine Influenza is now available. The vaccine is initially given twice (2 to 4 weeks apart), then yearly boosters are suggested. At North Kenilworth Veterinary  Care we are NOT recommending the vaccine for CIV at this time due to the extremely low prevalence of influenza in Arizona. Should the disease become more prevalent we will alert our clients. If your dog will travel to the states noted above and will be kenneled in those states, you should consider having the vaccine administered.

What should you be watching for? The main thing is to not ignore a coughing dog. If a cough persists for more than a day you should bring it to the attention of your veterinarian. More information is available on the internet.