Tips to Protect Your Dog from Dog Flu (Canine Influenza)

Between March 16 and April 1, 2015, Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) has been positively diagnosed in 89 dogs in the Chicago area. Canine influenza virus causes a respiratory infection in dogs that is often referred to as canine influenza or “dog flu.” Canine influenza virus was first isolated in Florida in 2004 at a Greyhound racing facility. Since then, the virus has been confirmed in dogs across 40 states and the District of Columbia. Since it is a relatively new virus, almost all dogs are susceptible to infection when they are newly exposed because they have not built up natural immunity.

Most infected dogs show only mild symptoms, but some dogs become very sick and require veterinary treatment. Most common clinical signs include lethargy, anorexia, low-grade fever, nasal discharge, and cough. Dogs with more severe disease can present with a high fever and pneumonia.

What You Need to Know and Do

  • CIV is not the same as Bordetella and Bordetella is not the only pathogen that causes kennel cough.
  • Canine influenza is highly infectious and the virus spreads very quickly from dog to dog.
  • Canine influenza virus can be spread by direct contact with respiratory discharge from infected dogs, through the air via a cough, bark, or sneeze, and by contact with contaminated objects such as dog bowls and clothing.
  • To prevent the spread of disease, wash your hands with soap and water or disinfect them with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after contact with dogs.
  • Dog owners whose dogs are coughing or showing other signs of respiratory disease should not participate in activities or bring their dogs to facilities where other dogs can be exposed to the virus.

Call your veterinarian immediately if your dog has the following symptoms:

  • Coughing
  • Discharge from the nose or eyes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy/lack of energy

Canine influenza can be prevented through vaccination. Talk to your veterinarian about whether or not your pet is at risk. Merck Animal Health offers a Canine influenza vaccine which is available through veterinarians.

More information is available here.

What’s Canine Influenza?
Canine influenza is a relatively new disease identified in the canine world. It is mutated from the Influenza A strain found in horses.

Is my dog at risk?
Because it is a relatively new virus, virtually every dog that is exposed will contract the virus. Up to 20% of dogs will show no signs. The virus is very contagious and can last up to 12 hours on a human’s hands and up to 24 hours on objects or clothing.

What are the signs & symptoms?
The signs are very similar to canine kennel cough but can be accompanied by fever, lethargy, and a runny nose. In a small percentage of cases, the virus can progress into pneumonia. Because the virus is similar to kennel cough, it can be officially diagnosed with laboratory testing.

Is there a Canine Influenza vaccine available?
There is a vaccine available; it requires 2 vaccines given 3-4 weeks apart, and yearly boosters after that.

We have not made it part of our “core” vaccines because canine influenza is not common in this region. Those most affected are those that go to daycare, training facilities or frequent dog parks. Although the vaccine is not always 100% effective (because viruses can mutate frequently) it has been shown that vaccinated dogs typically have milder symptoms.

Talk to one of our Veterinarians to discuss whether the vaccine should become part of your dog’s vaccine protocol.

Respiratory Illness Warning 

2014 Canine Influenza Outbreak:
An outbreak of Canine Influenza has recently been reported to RI state veterinarian Dr. Scott Marshall. The outbreak originated in a daycare/boarding facility in Providence, RI. More cases have now been confirmed in other parts of Rhode Island and in Massachusetts.