November 28, 2016

General Medical Issues

Canine Influenza – How much do you know about this contagious disease?

by Aili V. Heintz, DVM

The Canine Flu…some people are well aware of it, and some people have never even heard of it. How much do you know?

If you have ever had the (human) flu, you probably had a day or two of upset stomach, achy muscles, and a fever. Your remedy was probably lots of rest combined with some saltine crackers, chicken noodle soup, and some 7-Up.

For dogs, influenza is a much different illness. Dogs that become infected with canine flu often c
an feel ill for up to a month. In severe cases, canine influenza can be life-threatening forcanine-flu dogs!

How is canine influenza spread?

Canine influenza is easily spread through:

  • Dog to dog contact
  • The air, from a dog’s cough or sneeze
  • Contact with contaminated surfaces (food dishes, toys, shared kennels)
  • Contact with people who have touched an infected pet but have not cleaned properly

Your dog is at risk for canine influenza if he is around other dogs at boarding or doggie daycare. He is also at risk if you take him to training classes, a groomer, dog shows, or competitions. Dog parks are also high-risk areas for the spread of canine flu.

Your dog could contract influenza during a dog play date with one infected dog. Prior to any doggy get-togethers, determine whether or not the other dog(s) have been in high-risk areas. Ask your friends if their dogs have exhibited signs of contagion. The best way to treat canine influenza is to prevent it!

What are the signs of canine influenza?

Canine influenza is difficult to diagnose based on symptoms alone. Some symptoms are related to respiratory infection, but other symptoms are rather nondescript. Canine flu symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Lack of energy or decreased appetite
  • Eye or nose discharge

Because some of the symptoms of canine flu could be signs of other illnesses, your veterinarian can perform a test for influenza and other respiratory viruses. Based on the test results, your vet can recommend appropriate treatments and future vaccines.

What can I do to protect my dog?

Dogs do not have any natural immunity against the canine flu virus. If your pet is in contact with other dogs or is in a high-risk exposure category, have your dog vaccinated against canine influenza. If your dog gets the Bordatella (Kennel Cough) vaccine, he should also get the Canine Influenza vaccine.rex-delveaux

The first time your dog gets the influenza vaccine, it will be a series of two injections given 3-4 weeks apart. Your dog is not fully protected until he has received that second booster. After that initial set of injections, have your dog vaccinated yearly to keep him protected from the canine flu.

Can I get the flu from my dog?

No, the canine influenza virus primarily affects dogs, although a few cats have also been affected. Your dog will not pass his flu onto you.

However, we can easily pass canine flu from one dog to another with our contaminated hands or clothing. Good hand washing and hygiene are important to help reduce the spread of the virus.

Wash your hands thoroughly after petting other dogs. If you suspect that dog is ill, change your shoes and clothing before petting your own dog.

If you have any questions about canine influenza or whether your dog is at risk, please contact your veterinarian. Prevention is key to stopping the spread of this contagious disease!