Village Animal Clinic

CANINE INFLUENZA

There have now been documented cases of canine influenza in Ontario.  It is a type A influenza virus, the two strains identified as H3N8 and H3N2. There is no evidence that either of these viruses are transmittable to humans, but rarely can be transmitted to cats.

Canine influenza is transmitted from dog to dog via respiratory droplets through coughing, barking and/or sneezing. It can also be spread indirectly through objects that have come in contact with infected dogs, or the virus can be carried on people’s skin or clothing that have been in contact with infected dogs.  The virus can remain alive and capable of infection on surfaces for up to 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours, and on hands for 12 hours.

Furthermore, canine influenza has an incubation period of 1 to 5 days, during which time the dog is shedding the virus and is most contagious, even though they may not be showing signs of illness. A dog can also shed the virus for up to 4 weeks, even though they no longer show signs of infection. As with human flu, it is very contagious, with virtually all dogs exposed becoming infected. Over 80% of dogs exposed contract the virus and display symptoms, with the additional 20% of dogs shedding the contagious virus without exhibiting any symptoms.

Symptoms of canine influenza include a persistent cough, thick nasal discharge, high fever, lethargy, eye discharge and reduced appetite. It can be definitively diagnosed by laboratory testing, the most reliable being the PCR which detects virus nucleic acid. Most dogs recover in two to three weeks; however, some may develop secondary bacterial infections which may lead to more severe illness and pneumonia. Very young, elderly, immunocompromised or brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs are more at risk to develop severe illness.

As with any viral disease, treatment is largely supportive, with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication given to reduce fever and inflammation, and fluids to correct and maintain hydration.  If necessary, antibiotics will be dispensed if a secondary bacterial infection is suspected.

Unlike human flu, there is no flu “season”, and infection can occur at any time of the year. It is for this reason that dogs that are in close contact with other dogs, such as at the groomers, at kennels, dog parks or daycare facilities should receive this vaccine as part of the core vaccinations given. The vaccine we administer covers both strains of this flu, with the initial vaccine requiring a booster at 2 to 4 weeks. After this initial vaccine and booster, it is a single vaccine given yearly with the other core vaccinations (i.e. DA2PP, lepto, and bordetella).

Should you have any questions, please feel free to ask one of our veterinarians or technicians

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