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Canine Influenza

Feb 12, 2018 05:44PM ● By Louisa Asseo

Can Dogs Get the Flu?

By Dr. Louisa Asseo

It is definitely cold and flu season again! Something that has been getting a lot of publicity lately is the emergence of the flu that can affect dogs.  There are even anecdotal reports of this flu cropping up in our own backyards.  Here is some information about the dog flu that can help us understand the disease.

Canine influenza virus is caused by Influenza A virus.  To date, there are two strains that have been identified in dogs, H3N8 and H3N2. Canine influenza is specific to dogs.  There are no reports of this virus getting transmitted to people nor are there reports of the human influenza virus getting transmitted to dogs.

Canine influenza is transmitted through aerosolization of viruses during coughing, sneezing and barking.  It can also be spread through contact with infected dogs without washing your hands.  If your dog is exposed to the virus, he may start showing signs in 2-3 days.  However, he may be contagious to other dogs before he begins to show signs.  In general, dogs that have contact with other dogs may be at risk.

Similar to us, clinical signs of canine flu are coughing, runny nose, fever, runny eyes, and decreased appetite. These signs are also present with many other upper respiratory diseases such as Bordatella (“kennel cough”) and other viruses. There is a test that can be done to determine if your dog has canine influenza. In most cases, dogs that have the flu resolve on their own, like humans do.  In a very small percentage of dogs, the flu can progress to pneumonia and become a much more serious condition requiring veterinary attention.

If your dog is ill and canine influenza is suspected, proper treatment should be discussed with your veterinarian. In most cases, antibiotics are not helpful, nor are they indicated.  Treatment is aimed at supporting your dog while he clears the virus on his own.  Medications for decreasing fever, suppressing a cough, if severe, and maintaining proper hydration may be needed.

There is a vaccination available for canine influenza.  Like the flu vaccine for us, this vaccine covers only a few strains and is not expected to prevent transmission of the virus nor prevent all clinical signs of disease.  Many doggie daycare facilities, groomers, and boarding facilities are starting to require that your dog receive this vaccine prior to staying with them. Check with your veterinarian to see if they have this vaccine available and ask if your dog should one.

Wishing you and your companions a happy and healthy winter!