Canine influenza (dog flu) is a contagious respiratory disease in dogs caused by a specific Type A influenza virus referred to as a “canine influenza virus.” This is a disease of dogs, not of humans. The symptoms of this illness in dogs are cough, runny nose and fever, however, a small proportion of dogs can develop severe disease. The number of dogs infected with this disease that die is very small. Some dogs have asymptomatic infections (no symptoms), while some have severe infections. Severe illness is characterized by the onset of pneumonia. Although this is a relatively new cause of disease in dogs and nearly all dogs are susceptible to infection, about 80 percent of dogs will have a mild form of disease. Dogs that have lots of contact with other dogs are at the highest risk- this means dogs that frequent dog parks, boarding facilities, or dogs who reside in shelters.
Canine influenza virus can be spread by direct contact with aerosolized respiratory secretions from infected dogs, by contact with contaminated objects, and by people moving between infected and uninfected dogs. Therefore, dog owners whose dogs are coughing or showing other signs of respiratory disease should not participate in activities or bring their dogs to facilities where other dogs can be exposed to the virus. Clothing, equipment, surfaces, and hands should be cleaned and disinfected after exposure to dogs showing signs of respiratory disease.
There is a reliable lab test available to diagnose Canine influenza, which takes 1-3 days. Treatment largely consists of supportive care. This helps the dog mount an immune response. In the milder form of the disease, this care may include medication to make your dog more comfortable and fluids to ensure that your dog remains well-hydrated. Broad spectrum antibiotics may be prescribed by your veterinarian if a secondary bacterial infection is suspected. There is an approved, effective vaccine available at the River Road Veterinary Clinic. Initially two vaccinations are needed, three weeks apart.
Information courtesy of www.cdc.gov/flu/canine