Canine Influenza (Dog Flu)
Canine influenza (dog flu) is an infectious respiratory disease caused by an influenza virus occurring in canine animals particularly in dogs. There are two known strains of dog flu found in the United States:
- The H3N8 strain actually originated in horses. The virus jumped from horses to dogs, becoming a canine influenza virus around 2004, when the first outbreaks affected racing Greyhounds at a track in Florida.
- The H3N2 is originated in Asia, where scientists believe it jumped from birds to dogs. H3N2 is the virus responsible for the 2015 and 2016 outbreaks of canine influenza in the Midwest and continues to spread throughout the United States.
It is important to always be ready when it comes to dog flu whether it is mild or severe, the good news is most of the cases of Canine influenza are not fatal but as a fur parent we don’t want to see our fur baby’s to suffer in any illnesses.
How Is Canine Influenza Spread (Dog Flu)?
The spread of Canine Influenza or dog flu is like to human forms of influenza, it is airborne, the respiratory secretions escape into the environment in the form of coughing, barking, and sneezing, where they are then inhaled by a new canine host. The dog flu also spreads through contaminated objects and environments, like water bowls, collars, and kennel surfaces, or through contact with people who have had direct contact with an infected dog.
It is advisable to not bring your dog to overcrowded areas like dog parks, grooming stations, and daycare centers for dogs in the outbreak of dog flu because in these places there is a high chance of spreading the virus. The dogs are most contagious during the incubation period before they start exhibiting symptoms.
How long the incubation period of canine influenza?
The incubation period of canine influenza is approximately 2 to 4 days from initial exposure to the dog flu virus. The viral shedding starts to decrease after the 4th days, but dogs with H3N8 remain contagious for up to 10 days after exposure, and dogs with H3N2 remain contagious for up to 26 days. Most vets recommend isolating dogs with H3N2 for at least 21 days to reduce the risk of transmission.
Almost all dogs that come into contact with the disease will contract it but like humans, not all dogs that become infected with influenza shows symptoms of the virus. Asymptomatic dogs can still spread the disease, so it is advisable to talk to your vet about quarantine procedures for all dogs in your household or community to contain the spread of the virus.
Canine Influenza (Dog Flu) Symptoms
The Dog flue whether mild or severe must be addressed immediately to stop the spread to other dogs. Being familiar with any symptoms of dog flu is a must so that we can give proper medication to our dogs, and if in case of an outbreak in the area we can prevent our dogs to get it.
- Nasal discharge
- Purulent nasal discharge
- Eye Discharge
- Difficulty breathing
- Lack of Appetite
The Canine Influenza (Dog Flu) symptoms are the same as the symptoms of Kennel Cough when your dog shows this symptom it is better to ask your vet for more diagnosis to address the problem properly.
Note: Not all dogs that are affected by the flu will show the symptoms, some dogs are asymptomatic and can still spread the disease.
Treatment of Canine Influenza (Dog Flu)
The canine influenza virus requires the attention of a veterinarian. The presence of an upper respiratory tract infection in a dog that has been vaccinated for the other major causes of kennel cough increases suspicion of infection with canine influenza, especially in areas where the disease has been documented. To verify if a dog has Canine Influenza the vet will test a serum sample from a dog suspected of having canine influenza to performs PCR tests for this virus.
If a dog is suspected to have Canine Influenza (Dog Flu) your vet will also inform you about appropriate quarantine procedures to prevent the spread of dog flu, depending on the strain of the virus your dog contracts, they will also give you information about disinfectant solutions to use in your home to help kill the virus.
In the modern days, there is still no cure for dog flu only supportive treatment can a vet give to the infected dog, some dogs may require supportive care, such as fluids, to aid their recovery, as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications to reduce fevers. Your vet will help you come up with a nutritional plan and may prescribe antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections. They will also advise you on how to make your dog comfortable while battling this virus.
The most important thing to remember is to inform your vet immediately if your dog shows any symptoms of dog flu or kennel cough because they are both contagious, the immediate diagnosis and immediate and proper medication can lessen the contingency of this diseases.
The very first thing to prevent your dog from getting dog flu is keeping them away from crowded or public places such as dog parks, grooming stations, and daycare centers for dogs that have the recently reported cases. And second is Vaccinate your dogs for both H3N8 and H3N2 strains of canine influenza, ask your vet about this vaccination.
Cleanliness is also the key too to prevent the spread of the virus, if you come into contact with a dog that you suspect has dog flu or has recently been exposed to it, wash your hands, arms, and clothing before touching your own dog. This will reduce the risk of transmission from you to your dog.