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There has been a large outbreak of Canine Influenza in the Chicago area. However, there are no reported cases in the Quad Cities at this time. That said we do need to educate ourselves about the virus and understand that it could possibly spread to our area.

Canine Influenza H3N8 is a virus that was previously seen only in horses. The first cases in dogs appeared in 2004. In 2005, H3N8 was officially identified as a new and emerging pathogen in canines. It does not affect humans.

Canine Influenza is spread through the air and on contaminated surfaces such as kennels or clothing. It can survive on surfaces for up to 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours and on hands for 12 hours. Incubation is generally 2-4 days. Unfortunately it is during this period, when the dog is not showing any clinical signs, that the virus is most infectious.

Because this is a new virus around 80% of the dogs who are exposed will develop the disease. About 20% will not show any clinical signs at all but still be contagious. A small number of symptomatic animals will develop a more severe form of influenza and pneumonia. Overall the mortality rate is low when compared to the rate of infection.

Signs of Canine Influenza can be similar to Canine Kennel Cough but are generally more severe in nature. You may see:

  • Nasal and Ocular (eyes) discharge

  • Sneezing

  • Moist or dry cough

  • Low grade fever

  • Anorexia ( lack of appetite)

  • More severe cases may develop (green/yellow and thick) discharge, a high fever and/or pneumonia.

 

Canine Influenza is a virus and as such treatment is primarily supportive in nature. Fluids, nutrition, rest and isolation will help the dog mount its own immune response. This is particularly important in those animals with a severe form of the virus. When pneumonia or purulent nasal discharge is present antibiotics may also be used to treat the secondary bacterial infection. Most dogs will recover within 2 – 3 weeks.

Canine Influenza cannot be diagnosed on clinical signs alone.   Laboratory testing is the only way to confirm an infection with H3N8. This may be done by nasal/throat swab or blood testing.

You can protect your dog by:

  • Canine Influenza vaccine. Vaccination may prevent or most certainly decrease the severity of the disease. It requires 2 vaccinations 2 – 4 weeks apart. Maximum protection can be expected 10 days after the second shot.

  • If the virus is in your community, keep your dog from group situations where you do not know the vaccination status of other pets.

  • At this time, use considerable caution if you travel with your pet to the Chicago area.

  • Remember to wash your hands after coming into contact with other dogs.

  • If your dog develops clinical signs, please isolate them from other pets and call your veterinarian.