Canine Influenza

20150418_154020-1Canine influenza is a highly contagious viral infection seen in dogs. Also called dog flu, this respiratory illness is caused by the influenza A virus.
As of April 2015, two strains of canine influenza have been identified: H3N8 and H3N2.
Signs of Canine Influenza
Nearly all dogs that come in contact with canine influenza will contract the virus. Some dogs will never show signs of illness.
The majority of dogs exposed will become mildly to moderately ill. A small number of dogs will develop a severe form of the disease. Dogs that become sick develop one or more of the following signs:
• Coughing (sometimes a dry, persistent cough that resembles kennel cough)
• Sneezing
• Discharge from nose and/or eyes
• Lethargy
• Loss of appetite
• Fever (104ºF to 106ºF seen in the severe form of flu)
Canine Influenza Treatment
Although there is no known cure, canine influenza can usually be treated with supportive care. If your dog is showing any signs of illness, contact your veterinarian right away. After performing a thorough examination and likely some diagnostic tests, your vet will determine the best plan. Treatment generally involves maintaining hydration, supporting nutritional needs and preventing or treating secondary infections. Dogs with severe flu signs will need more intensive veterinary care.
Left untreated, canine influenza can lead to pneumonia. That is why it is so important to seek veterinary attention at the earliest sign of disease.
With proper care, most dogs will make a full recovery. The mortality rate for canine influenza is less than 10%.
Preventing Canine Influenza
Canine influenza is a somewhat newer disease, so dogs generally lack natural immunity to it. The virus can affect dogs of all ages, breeds and sizes, even those in optimum health. That is why nearly all dogs exposed to the dog flu become infected.
Canine influenza is spread through contact with the respiratory secretions of infected dogs. Exposure can also occur by contact with contaminated objects. The risk of exposure increases in areas where dogs gather. This includes boarding kennels, dog parks, “doggie day care” and canine events.
There is a vaccine available for canine influenza, but it was developed for the H3N8 strain. Currently, there is no information about the vaccine’s efficacy against the H3N2 strain. However, if your dog is exposed to many different dogs on a regular basis, the canine influenza vaccine might be recommended. Ask your veterinarian for more information about the dog flu vaccine.
Fortunately, canine influenza is not known to be transmissible from dogs to humans. However, it is possible for humans to transfer the virus from one dog to another through contact. That is why proper hygiene is essential to prevent the spread of the virus. Be sure to wash your hands, face and clothing after contact with unknown or sick dogs. Clean all areas and objects that may be contaminated.
Note: the H3N2 strain of canine influenza virus may be transmissible to cats. Neither strain is known to be transmissible to other species.

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