Your Canine Influenza FAQs Answered

As you may or may not have heard, there has been a recent outbreak of a highly contagious respiratory viral disease caused by the canine influenza virus in the Dallas metroplex. While this may sound foreboding, there is no need for panic. Instead, we’d like to share the information you need to keep your fur family member safe. As such, we’ve rounded up some of your frequently asked questions and their answers below.

Are humans at risk of getting influenza from the family dog?

The subtypes involved in most cases of canine influenza are H3N8 and H3N2. As these strains are species-specific, transmission to humans is highly unlikely. 

Where are most of the canine influenza infections occurring?

Most of these infections happen in highly populated or overcrowded settings such as boarding facilities, doggy day cares, groomers, dog parks, dog shows, etc.

How does canine influenza spread?

Transmission happens via aerosolized respiratory secretions, direct contact with an infected inanimate object, or contact with an infected dog. 

What are the symptoms of canine influenza?

If your dog is exposed to the virus and gets influenza, they’ll begin experiencing symptoms within 2-4 days.

The clinical symptoms of canine influenza are as follows:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy
  • A dry, non-productive cough
  • Sneezing

Although uncommon, in more complicated cases, such as in young, old, or immunocompromised dogs, ocular or nasal discharge can develop in addition to fever, dehydration, difficulty breathing, pneumonia, and death. 

How do you diagnose canine influenza?

The most common way we diagnose canine influenza infection is by knowing the dog’s history of being around a large group of dogs and clinical signs, but we also have PCR testing to rule out other causes of your dog’s symptoms. 

How do you treat canine influenza?

The good news is that, for the most part, canine influenza virus infection is mild and self-limiting. There is no specific treatment at this time. Treatment is aimed at supportive care, which means a lot of TLC for your furry friend!

Here are some of the things we do to treat canine influenza:

  • If the cough is non-productive, cough tablets can soothe their throat
  • If there is a loss of appetite, then appetite stimulants can be beneficial
  • Fluid therapy
  • Oxygenation
  • Nebulization treatments
  • Appropriate nutrition

If your veterinarian suspects a secondary bacterial infection, they can treat your dog with antibiotics. There is also a canine influenza vaccine, and, as with all pet vaccines—it’s not a treatment but a prevention (more on that below).

How can we prevent the spread of the canine influenza virus?

Isolation is best to limit the spread. Infected dogs should not be exposed to other dogs for at least 28 days from the onset of clinical signs. It’s critical to clean the area around your dog, and the best news about that is that the canine influenza virus is easy to kill in the environment, as it is quite sensitive to most disinfectants. 

There is a vaccine against the canine influenza virus available from your veterinarian. The vaccine does not prevent infection but can lessen the severity of the disease.  If your dog is at risk for developing canine influenza, they should be vaccinated to prevent severe disease. The initial vaccine series consists of one vaccine, a booster in 3-4 weeks, and annually thereafter. 

If you have any questions regarding the canine influenza virus and the vaccination, please get in touch with us at Crossroads Pet Hospital

Dr. Marisela Diaz

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