In recent months, multiple cases of canine influenza, aka “dog flu,” have been diagnosed across the U.S.—including in states like Washington, California, Arizona, Colorado and Pennsylvania. If you’re a concerned dog owner who wants to protect your pup from the illness, arm yourself with the following 3 key facts:
Fact #1: Most dogs are susceptible to canine influenza
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), canine influenza is a highly contagious respiratory infection that can spread quickly among dogs in shelters, kennels, doggie daycares, grooming salons, and other facilities where dogs convene. Dogs contract canine influenza when they come into direct contact with an infected dog’s respiratory secretions, which are expelled through barking, coughing, and sneezing, and with contaminated inanimate objects.
Because canine influenza is still an emerging disease and most dogs in the U.S. haven’t been exposed to it before, the AVMA says almost all dogs are susceptible if exposed to the active virus. Virtually all exposed dogs become infected, and nearly 80% show clinical signs of infection.
Fact #2: Most dogs recover from canine influenza
The AVMA says canine influenza in the U.S. has been caused by the influenza A strains H3N8 and H3N2, and is seen in two forms:
- Mild Form — Symptoms may include a slightly wet, persistent cough, lethargy, sneezing, and discharge from the eyes and nose.
- Severe Form — Symptoms may include high fever (104°F-106°F), dehydration, and clinical signs of pneumonia such as rapid or labored breathing.
Most dogs recover in 2–3 weeks, with fewer than 10% dying from complications resulting from the illness. That said, all dogs with symptoms of canine influenza should be isolated from other pets and evaluated by a veterinarian, who will create a care plan based on the severity of the illness. A care plan may include nutritional support, medication, hydration therapy, and possibly hospitalization in more severe cases.
Fact #3: You can help protect your dog
The AVMA states that a vaccine against H3N8 canine influenza has been available since 2009, and H3N2 vaccines were conditionally approved in late 2015. It is considered a “lifestyle” vaccine, which means your dog’s veterinarian should decide whether to vaccinate based on risk of exposure to the virus and health benefits to your dog, and should administer these vaccinations at least two weeks before a planned visit to a dog boarding or care facility.
If your dog is routinely boarded or visits doggie daycare, check with the facility to ensure they have routine infection control precautions in place to help protect your dog. Protocols should be in place for thorough cleaning and disinfecting of kennels, bowls, and other surfaces, and employees should wash their hands with soap and water before and after handling each dog or coming into contact with a dog’s saliva, urine, feces, or blood.
In case you’re wondering …
There is no evidence of transmission of either canine influenza strain from dogs to people. However, the H3N2 strain has been reported in Asia to infect cats, and there’s some evidence that guinea pigs and ferrets can become infected.
Read the AVMA’s Canine Influenza FAQ for comprehensive information.