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Canine Influenza: What You Need to Know

YorkieHave you heard of Canine Influenza? Like the flu that can cause us misery any time of year, this virus is a highly contagious, airborne illness that can affect the respiratory system of your dog if he is exposed.  Recently, a number of cases have been reported and confirmed in Lancaster County, triggering the temporary closure of several local kennels and boarding facilities.  This virus is easily spread with a cough or a sneeze from an affected pet, and it can be transferred or contaminate any surface, potentially infecting any other dog that walks through the area. While the virus can make your pet quite ill, the bright side is that it is rarely fatal. Here are some other quick facts about Canine Influenza you should know.

How will I know if my dog is sick?

Dogs with Canine Influenza exhibit symptoms including coughing, fever and runny nose, 4 to 5 days after exposure to the virus. Infected pets may also experience lethargy and loss of appetite.  “Social” dogs (those that frequent areas such as dog parks, kennels, and public locations visited by other unfamiliar dogs) tend to be at greater risk of exposure. Even walking through the neighborhood for your daily exercise can be risky.  About 20 percent of dogs who are exposed will exhibit no symptoms, while some become strongly symptomatic with potential to fall victim to secondary infections like pneumonia. If your dog should exhibit any symptoms, keep your pet isolated at home to prevent spread of the virus to other pets, and arrange to see you veterinarian as soon as possible. Those dogs exposed to the virus are most infectious before symptoms become apparent or visible, and for up to 10 to 14 days after exposure.

What is the treatment for Canine Influenza?

It’s important to remember that if your dog gets the flu, chances are he’ll be just fine in the end. If your dog contracts the Canine Flu, your vet will probably recommend “supportive treatment” for your pet at home. This includes rest in a warm location and plenty of fluids to keep your pet well-hydrated while they fight the virus. It can take 10 to 30 days for your dog to be back to normal, sometimes longer in very serious cases. A healthy immune system should be able to mount a defense to mild forms of the resulting in a stronger immunity against future infections. More serious cases may require IV fluids and/or broad spectrum antibiotics (to fight secondary infections such as pneumonia).  In any case, contact your veterinarian if your dog is coughing or just not acting himself. A quick diagnosis and necessary TLC should have him back to his happy, active self in no time.

Is there a vaccine for Canine Influenza?

SyringeA vaccine for against the virus became available in 2009. The vaccine is administered in two parts; dose one on your first visit and a second dose 3 weeks after. Veterinarians commonly recommend that you vaccinate your pet if they are frequently exposed to strange dogs or public areas where they are more likely to become exposed.

What are the pros and cons of vaccination?

While the CIV vaccine is readily available, many owners may choose not to have their pet vaccinated. Most pets that contract CIV build a natural immunity to the virus that can last for up to 2 years. Dogs supplied with the 2-part vaccine may never contract the virus at all or show any symptoms, but there is still potential that they may contract the virus in a mild form, much like vaccines for human influenza strains. So, depending on your dog, the vaccine may spare him from days or even weeks of dealing with the misery of flu symptoms as his natural immunity develops, and it may save you from a potentially sizeable vet bill if a secondary infection rears its ugly head.  If you board or kennel your pet, or enroll them in doggie day care, you may be actually be required by the business to have your pet vaccinated before you drop them off for their stay as a precaution for both your pet and others in the facility.

Can Canine Influenza be passed on to humans?

The virus affects dogs only, not humans.  Canine Flu (A H3N8) originated as an equine flu, but at some stage in the late 90’s it became apparent that the virus had spread to dogs as several outbreaks occurred at racetracks shared by horses and greyhounds. Outbreaks of the virus have been documented to date in more than 22 states, but it has never been documented to affect people or other animals.  The CDC monitors this and other influenza strains closely to watch for any mutations to the virus. As is the nature of influenza viruses, there is always a possibility that the strain could change with time, but for now this strain is not a concern for humans, except that it could make our furry friends sick.

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Patty has been with That Fish Place since 1998, spending most of her time on the aquatic end of the hobby. Her love and interest in pets and animals started in early childhood. Growing up on a hobby farm, she’s had experience with a variety of animals from rodents and reptiles to llamas and emus. She is currently the proud “mom” of a spaniel mix and a Boston Terrier, but just about anything animal related interests her.
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