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Influenza and Your Dog

Influenza and Your Dog

Canine influenza is a very real and highly contagious respiratory infection in dogs, caused by a new and unusual influenza known as the H3N8 virus, a subtype first discovered in 2004. Due to the fact that canine influenza is a virus fairly new to the canine population, dogs lack preexisting immunity to it. Dogs of any age, breed or health status are susceptible to infection. Although it has not been documented, it is likely that dogs who have recovered from the infection retain immunity to re-infection for an undetermined time period.

Unlike viruses that infect people, canine influenza is not a “seasonal” infection and can occur at any time, year round. It is one of the several viruses and bacteria that are associated with canine respiratory disease, or what is commonly called “Kennel Cough” (infectious tracheobronchitis).

Canine influenza virus (CIV) infection can cause respiratory disease by itself or along with other canine respiratory pathogens. Like influenza viruses in other species, CIV causes flu-like symptoms, coughing, sneezing and nasal discharge. Canine influenza is most likely spread where dogs are housed together and there is a high turnover of dogs in and out of the facility. Grooming parlors, shelters, veterinary clinics, boarding facilities and pet stores pose the highest risk of exposure. Stay at home dogs that only walk within their neighborhood are at low risk.

Testing to confirm canine influenza virus infection is available at veterinary diagnostic centers. The tests are preformed using respiratory secretions at the onset of symptoms using blood samples. The second is collected two to three weeks later. Prevention is the key to any disease outbreak, whether it is Kennel Cough, swine flu or canine influenza. These viruses are highly susceptible to common disinfectants.

The good news is that there is a new vaccine for the H3N8 subtype that just came out on the market this past year. This new vaccine has been shown to reduce viral shedding, thereby minimizing the spread and severity of clinical signs. It has been proven safe and well tolerated in more than 700 dogs.

Always be careful where you take your dog and take it to the vet at the first sign of a problem.