Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Canine Influenza

Canine Influenza is a respiratory infection caused by a highly contagious virus. The virus easily spreads from one dog to another via air and/or contact with infected objects.
Canine influenza has been traced as a mutation from the virus causing equine influenza in horses. The initial infection began in Florida on a greyhound racetrack in 2004 (though some researchers suspect even earlier cases). It rapidly traveled through other dog race tracks, animal shelters, and veterinary facilities, reaching dogs throughout much of the United States before it was even truly recognized.
Because this is such a new infectious agent, most dogs have no natural immunity against this virus. Hence, the majority of dogs exposed will become actively infected.


Dogs infected with canine influenza develop varying degrees of coughing, nasal discharge, fever, and decline in attitude and appetite. Indeed, initially these are the same symptoms seen with other upper respiratory infections, often referred to as “kennel cough.”

For those dogs that have only mild signs of canine influenza, they should recover within a week or two, though the cough may still persist for two to three weeks.

Some dogs, however, become seriously ill and may develop additional infections in the lungs. When these secondary bacterial infections occur, the resulting pneumonia may cause severe respiratory complications and even death. A hemorrhagic (bloody) pneumonia has become a hallmark to the fatalities of canine influenza.


Since many upper respiratory illnesses have similar clinical signs, it is difficult for the veterinarian to initially diagnose the cause. Canine influenza can be easily confused especially with bordetella, the bacterial “kennel cough.” The cough associated with canine influenza, however, often sounds more moist than bordetella’s dry cough.
Unfortunately, at this time, there is no simple diagnostic test for canine influenza. Blood samples can be taken during and after the illness to identify the immunological protection the patient develops. Though, it may confirm the diagnosis, this process takes several weeks and certainly cannot impact the treatment plans during those first few days of illness.
The history, physical examination, and progression of the disease despite antibiotics and cough suppressants usually become sufficient for the veterinarian to make a presumptive “diagnosis” of canine influenza.
During the course of treatment, the veterinarian will need to perform a variety of additional tests. Chest radiographs, complete blood counts, and blood chemistries allow the doctor to assess the status of the patient’s condition and treat accordingly.

For dogs with only mild signs of canine influenza, they should recover within a week or two, though the cough may still persist for two to three weeks.


If you suspect your dog is showing signs of a respiratory infection, schedule an examination with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Rapid shallow breaths, unwillingness to lie down, or holding the elbows unusually extended away from the body are all indications of labored breathing.
If you feel your dog is having difficulty breathing, treat it as an emergency. Contact your veterinary facility immediately for recommendations for the fastest assistance for your dog.
As with most mild cases of upper respiratory infections, the majority of dogs infected with canine influenza respond mainly to the “tincture of time.” Most infected dogs should recuperate within one to two weeks, with a lingering cough for an additional one to two weeks.
Unfortunately, antibiotics have no effect against viruses and there is no veterinary approved antiviral drug at this time. Your veterinarian, however, may recommend antibiotics in hopes of preventing or reducing further complications. Your dog may also be prescribed cough suppressants for comfort. Keep your veterinarian updated if your dog is not improving within a day or two or if his health worsens.
If a dog develops the severe form of canine influenza and progresses to pneumonia, hospitalization with supportive care will substantially increase the chances for recovery. Intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and possibly oxygen therapy will be needed until the body can recover. Such intensive care may be needed for a week or more with full recovery taking another two to three weeks or more. Unfortunately, some dogs, regardless of treatment, may not recover and die.


Preventing canine influenza or any other “kennel cough” relies on the same principles as humans trying to avoid the common cold. Prevention depends on minimizing exposure to the virus. Unfortunately, infected dogs can be contagious to others even several days before showing signs themselves. This makes prevention even more difficult.
One of the obvious, but, most effective preventive is to keep your dog away from other dogs exhibiting obvious signs of a respiratory illness — coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge. Always wash your hands and, if you suspect infection, perhaps even change your clothes after you have handled another dog. Do not let your dog contact any items that may have been exposed to an infected dog.
Bleach or any kennel approved disinfectants can be used to effectively clean areas against the canine influenza virus.
A new canine influenza has been shown to control the spread of influenza and minimize the impact. This effective and safe vaccine, Nobivac® Canine Flu H3N8, is licensed by the USDA and can be provided by your veterinarian. In addition, follow your veterinarian’s guidelines for more preventive measures that may be pertinent to your area and/or your specific lifestyle.

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