Achoo! Canine Flu and How to Protect Your Pup

veterinarian dogsSince last year’s outbreak in Chicago, canine flu has been on the minds of many pet owners. With the potential to reach epidemic proportions throughout the Midwest, the Canine Influenza Virus/CIV has spread across the United States and is considered very contagious.

Because pups are so friendly, concerned guardians may wonder if it’s safe to take a dog to the park or to other areas with high concentrations of animals. More importantly, you may be asking how this newer strain of CIV threatens your fur friend in general?

Understanding Canine Flu

The original strain of Canine Influenza Virus/CIV H3N8 was first detected in 2004 among a group of greyhounds who were exposed to infected horses. Once thought to be an equine flu, the virus mutated and was able to spread to dogs.

Later, another strain (H3N2) emerged throughout Asia. Again, the virus mutated from an avian-specific infection to one that could be transmitted to dogs and cats (although less common among felines).

The Chicago outbreak of 2015 occurred when H3N2 was introduced to the United States and spread quickly across animal shelters, kennels, and dog parks. Like most flu viruses, it’s airborne and highly contagious. It has the capacity to affect thousands of canines within a matter of months.

How Serious is Canine Flu?

Because CIV is a relatively new virus, dogs (and sometimes cats) are at a high risk of developing the illness. Clinical symptoms are similar to what any person might experience with a flu or cold:

  • Fever
  • Runny nose and/or eyes
  • Persistent cough
  • Sneezing
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite

CIV also mirrors the symptoms of kennel cough (Bordetella) and allergies, so it’s important to have your pet examined if any of these signs are present.

More severe cases of CIV can develop into pneumonia, which is why a quick diagnosis and treatment is important. Small dogs and toy breeds are also susceptible to rapid dehydration.

The effects of canine flu on your pet depend on a number of factors such as age, size, and whether there are any existing illnesses.

Stop the Virus from Spreading

One of the best ways to safeguard your pet is through inoculation. Vaccines are available to prevent your canine companion from acquiring the H3N8 or H3N2 viruses.

Considering the potential severity of canine flu, we recommend vaccinating your pet against the most recent strain (H3N2), especially in regions where the virus has spread aggressively. You’re also welcome to contact us with other questions about how to prevent CIV.

In addition to vaccinating your pet, you can help stop the spread of canine flu by practicing the following safety tips:

  • Monitor the news for reports and updates on CIV in your area.
  • Reduce your pet’s exposure by avoiding kennels, doggy daycares, and dog parks.
  • If you come into contact with an unknown dog, wash your hands and clothes before interacting with your own pet(s).
  • Carefully observe your pet for signs of illness. Have your dog examined if you think he or she has acquired canine flu.   

Although canine flu is likely here to stay, there are many ways to protect your pet by remaining proactive and informed.