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Dog Flu. Canine Influenza. What Is It? What Can I Do?

A sick dog lying in bed with a blanket

You’ve likely been hearing a lot lately in the media about the threat of canine influenza (CIV), or the dog flu, here in San Diego County. This blog is intended to alleviate some of your concerns.

Last month, a recently adopted dog was diagnosed in the Mission Valley area with H3N8 CIV. There are hundreds of thousands of dogs in San Diego County and so far this is the only confirmed case that I know of. The American Veterinary Medical Association reports two cases in the Los Angeles area.

Where did it begin?

The original 2004 outbreak on the east coast that began in Greyhound kennels is the same H3N8 strain, and this is the strain that the vaccine was developed to combat. Since 2004, H3N8 has been documented in at least 30 states.

It should be noted that the Chicago outbreak reported over the past few months is in fact of a different strain, H3N2. This particular strain had previously been limited to the areas of China, Korea and Thailand. It is unknown if the H3N8 vaccine has any efficacy against H3N2.

At this point, veterinarians are on the watch for cases of CIV. Any dog presenting for a cough will be treated as highly contagious until proven otherwise, however, there are a plethora of causative agents resulting in an upper respiratory infection (URI) other than the dog flu. With client approval, screening can be performed to determine whether or not dogs with URI’s are in fact infected with CIV and if so, what strain.

What is CIV?

Here’s a little information about CIV. It is a highly contagious upper respiratory virus. The incubation period is 2-4 days from exposure to onset of symptoms. The majority of virus shedding occurs in the first 5 days of illness when the dog is still asymptomatic, meaning that we have no idea that the dog is infected yet! If the virus enters the daycare a high percentage of dogs will become infected. About 20-25% will remain asymptomatic (these dogs can still shed the virus however).

Typically, less than 10% of dogs develop life-threatening pneumonia from CIV. The majority of dogs exhibit only the mild form consisting of a cough. Nasal and eye discharge, sneezing, lethargy, and decreased or nonexistent appetite may also be seen. Many dogs will develop a low grade fever. It should be noted that a lot of these symptoms can be attributed to secondary opportunistic infections and not CIV itself.

Photo by Sadeugra

How to Keep Your Dog Safe

It would be prudent to keep any dog with even the mildest of coughs home from camp, just as you would keep your kids home from school in the same situation … to do your best to avoid infecting others! Bordetella (otherwise known as kennel cough) is also a highly infectious upper respiratory infection easily spread to other dogs. Contact your veterinarian if symptoms worsen or you are worried at any time. They will take appropriate precautions to prevent spread of an infection within their facility. Typically, it is recommended that dogs diagnosed with kennel cough remain isolated for 10 days. If CIV is diagnosed, that period is increased to 14 to 21 days.

CIV can only survive on surfaces for 48 hours and it is easily killed with basic disinfectants already in use at camp. Be comfortable in the knowledge that they already have strict disinfectant protocols in place to keep your dog as safe as they can be.

If you remain worried about exposure to the CIV, vaccination is your best bet. The H3N8 vaccine has been proven to decrease virus shedding and also to decrease the severity of the symptoms of the illness. It is no different than vaccinating your dog against Bordetella. But to be quite honest with you, I remain far more concerned about exposure to severe, life threatening diseases like Parvo virus that run rampant in San Diego county.

Contact for Help

If you have any questions about CIV or the H3N8 vaccine, please contact your veterinarian or feel free to contact me at [email protected]

Charlotte Frank, DVM Medical Director
Paws 4 Shots and more www.paws4shots.com 1(844)PAW-SHOT [email protected]

Dr. Charlotte Frank has been working with Camp Run-A-Mutt, providing advice, support, and running vaccination clinics to help ensure the safety and well-being of all the pups that come to Camp. We appreciate her work and her taking the time to write this blog giving us the information we need to keep our pups healthy.

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