Canine Flu: What you can do
Canine flu is a new disease that is affecting dogs. It is caused by the canine influenza virus, a relatively new virus that affects dogs. It was first identified in racing greyhounds in 2004 and appears to have been involved with significant respiratory problems on the dog tracks throughout the U.S. since then.
The Virology Lab at Cornell University in New York isolated the first influenza virus from a dog that died during one of the racetrack outbreaks. Non-greyhounds have also been found to be infected by this influenza virus.
The canine influenza virus is a virus that originally infected horses. It is identified as the H3N8 virus, and has been in the horse population for at least 40 years.
It may be difficult to differentiate a mild case of canine influenza virus infection from traditional infectious tracheobronchitis (kennel cough, which is caused by many different microbes) in an individual dog. It is more obvious when groups of dogs are affected. Since this is a new disease, virtually all dogs are susceptible to canine flu, regardless of age or vaccination history. Infection rates in kennels may reach 100% with clinical signs developing in 75-80% of dogs.
The incubation period (time from exposure to development of signs of disease) is relatively short, in the 2-5 day range. Most animals can transmit the virus for 10 or more days after the start of clinical signs. Nearly 20% of infected dogs will not display clinical signs and become the silent shedders and spreaders of the infection.
Canine influenza virus is spread by airborne respiratory secretions (e.g., from sneezing or coughing), contaminated inanimate objects, and even by people moving back and forth between infected and uninfected dogs. The virus is killed by routine disinfectants, such as a 10 percent bleach solution or a commercial disinfectant made for cleaning dog cages, kennels, runs, and more.
Management of symptoms by your veterinarian
Helping protect your dog from this disease
Prevention is also key. The disease is most likely to spread where large numbers of dogs come together, such as in boarding facilities, dog shows, dog classes, dog parks, etc. While the canine flu is not a cause for panic, owners should take precautions. This includes not allowing your dog to share toys or dishes with other dogs grouped together. Vaccinations for other diseases should be kept up to date to decrease the possibility of other respiratory diseases. Dogs diagnosed with respiratory infections should be kept isolated from other dogs for 2 weeks. Since the virus could be transmitted from dog to dog via human hands, clothing, and other items, persons should take precautions against inadvertently spreading the virus between dogs.
Always consult a veterinarian if you suspect your dog is sick, whether with dog flu or anything else. Some signs your dog may not be feeling his best include: