Canine Influenza: How to Protect Your Dog

A dog wearing a maskCanine influenza has made a comeback this spring, spreading rapidly across the United States. While canine flu has been in the news since the original outbreak in Chicago in 2015, the illness has actually been around for a few decades.

What makes the recent strain so contagious is that there hasn’t been enough time for dogs to build up resistant antibodies. Therefore, it spreads quickly to pets who remain unvaccinated.

A Brief History of Canine Influenza Virus (CIV)

Despite causing alarm over the past two years, canine influenza virus (CIV) was first detected in 2004. What was once an equine-specific virus mutated and affected a group of confined racing greyhounds. This strain is known as CIV H3N8.

The newer strain, H3N2, was also a cross-species mutation that was thought to be avian-specific. While it was originally assumed to be in China, Korea, and Thailand, the virus appeared in 2005 in the Chicago area. Most recently, H3N2 has spread to domestic cats throughout the Midwest.

An Overview

Like the highly contagious Bordetella (kennel cough), CIV is a respiratory illness that’s transmitted through contact with an infected pet.

Like its predecessor H3N8, CIV H3N2 spreads more quickly in areas where multiple pets are housed (kennels, animal shelters, etc.). Once a pet becomes infected, symptoms typically emerge within 2-3 days. The first sign is often a moist cough that persists for 2-3 weeks.

Other mild to moderate symptoms of canine influenza include:

  • Fever
  • Persistent cough
  • Nasal discharge
  • Sneezing
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy

Puppies, seniors, and pets with other health complications are at a greater risk of developing pneumonia. As we’ve seen in the Midwest, felines are now also suffering from respiratory symptoms linked to CIV.

If your pet exhibits any of these symptoms, please contact us for an examination. Although most pets suffer through milder forms of CIV, it’s better to provide a diagnosis and treatment now than to take a chance on more serious complications later on.

The Good News

The benefit of raising awareness about CIV is our ability to focus on prevention. Fortunately, there are canine vaccines for both H3N8 and H3N2 (and we hope one will soon be available for cats as well). The vaccine for H3N2 consists of two injections and is offered here at Barton Heights Veterinary Hospital.

Because the virus has already spread across the U.S. and to thousands of cherished pets, vaccination is not only good for your companion, but for anyone who may come into contact with the illness.

To learn more about canine influenza and vaccines, please call or schedule an appointment with one of our veterinarians.

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