What is Canine Influenza (Dog Flu)?
Dog flu is still a newer disease, with the first incident diagnosed in 2004. Therefore, all dogs are susceptible due to their lack of immunity. If exposed, all dogs become infected, with 80% showing symptoms. This viral infection is easily transferred from dog to dog through direct contact, nasal discharge, and through contaminated objects. One of the strains at fault, H3N2, has been seen to infect cats, but so far, there has been no evidence that either strain can infect humans. While easily treated, early detection is key to preventing a secondary infection that can lead to more serious complications.
Canine influenza, or the dog flu, is a highly contagious acute respiratory illness caused by the canine influenza virus. This is an influenza A virus, of which there are two strains currently affecting dogs, the H3N2 and the H3N8. It can cause upper respiratory disease, fever and even pneumonia.
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Symptoms of Canine Influenza (Dog Flu) in Dogs
Symptoms of canine influenza follow along one of two paths, mild or severe, with the mild form being the most common. Symptoms are generally seen within 2-3 days of infection.
The mild form includes:
- Soft, moist cough, persisting for 10-30 days
- Dry cough, like kennel cough
- Reduction of appetite
- Discharge from eyes
- Runny nose
- Thick discharge from nose
The severe form of the virus generally includes a secondary bacterial infection, which can cause:
- High fever, 104 to 106 F
- Increased breathing rate
All canine influenza is caused by the influenza A virus. There are currently two strains affecting dogs.
- H3N8, which has evolved from an equine influenza
- H3N2, which has evolved from an avian influenza
Causes of Canine Influenza (Dog Flu) in Dogs
There is only one cause of canine influenza, which is the nfection due to influenza A virus. This can be spread from infected a dog to a non-infected dog by way of:
- Direct contact
- Nasal or aerosol discharge spread with barking, sneezing or coughing
- Contact with contaminated objects, such as surfaces, food bowls, and leashes
- Infection by people carrying the virus from dog to dog on hands and clothing
Any dog is at risk for catching this viral infection, but some dogs run a higher risk. These include:
- Elderly dogs
- Pregnant dogs
- Immunocompromised dogs
- Dogs that are commonly in areas with other dogs, such as day care centers and grooming salons
Diagnosis of Canine Influenza (Dog Flu) in Dogs
This viral infection can develop secondary bacterial infections, dehydration, pneumonia, or other medical issues. If you suspect your dog has contracted this infection, notify your veterinarian right away.
Symptoms of canine influenza can resemble that of kennel cough, and testing to determine that it is canine influenza will take time to get results. Cultures will be taken from the nose or throat in dogs who have been ill less than 3 days. A blood test is the most accurate way to detect this infection, taken once in the first week of illness, and again 10 to 14 days later. An antibody test may be done within seven days after symptoms have surfaced to make a positive diagnosis for canine influenza, since the virus itself can be undetectable. Due to the nature of the time frame for the tests, the next step will be to treat the symptoms before a definite diagnosis of canine influenza is made.
Treatment of Canine Influenza (Dog Flu) in Dogs
Any dogs infected with canine influenza should be isolated from other dogs and cats to prevent further transmission. Be sure to alert any day care center, kennel or other facility you normally take your dog to so that they can take proper precautions.
Treatment will depend on the symptoms your dog is presenting. Antibiotics may be prescribed to fight any bacterial infections present. Anti-inflammatories may be given for fever, swelling and pain. Fluid therapy is given to those dogs who have become dehydrated. Other medications may be prescribed depending on other symptoms present. Hospitalization may be needed for more severe cases. Fatalities have only been reported with the onset of pneumonia, but the rate is less than 10% of affected dogs.
Recovery of Canine Influenza (Dog Flu) in Dogs
Recovery from canine influenza is generally in 2-4 weeks. You may be sent home with medications to administer, and future veterinary visits may be required for further testing.
Be sure to clean any inanimate objects that may have become infected in your dog’s environment, so that you lessen the risk of infection for any susceptible dogs.
Prevention is paramount, especially if there has been an outbreak in your area. If you believe your dog is at risk of contracting canine influenza, you may want to speak with your veterinarian about the available vaccines, now available for both strains. Since it is considered a “lifestyle” vaccine, you will need to discuss with your veterinarian your dog’s risk of exposure to determine if a vaccine is the best course of action. Vaccines should be given at least 2 weeks before any visits to places where dog interactions are high, such as kennels or dog parks. Vaccines against other respiratory causing pathogens, such as Bordetella, parainfluenza, and adenovirus, may help to prevent a secondary infection in a dog already compromised by the influenza virus.
Keeping your dog out of multiple dog interactions that can be a breeding ground for this viral infection is also a path of prevention. These include areas such as dog parks, boarding and kennel facilities, day care centers, dog shows, training facilities, grooming salons, or any other dog events where many dogs are present.
Canine Influenza (Dog Flu) Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
I have the flu type A and my dog has been around me. He just threw up. He immediately drank water after and is acting normal. Is this something I should be concerned about?
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My dog has been low energy (lower than usual he is not a high energy dog to begin with). He has been drinking a lot more water than normal and his face looks like it's sun burnt the skin is white and the top of his nose looks like the skin is falling off. I took him to my local vet who after spending hundreds of dollars basically came up with the conclusion that it is not mange but gave me nothing else to go on. He has been coughing and gagging a lot and he swallows harder than usual. Any idea of what this could be ? The flu perhaps ? Allergies (he has none I know of and I haven't changed his diet lately) ? I'm so lost.
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