We have received many questions regarding canine influenza following reports in December 2015 of two dogs testing positive at a boarding facility in Kent, WA. While we take our client’s concerns very seriously we do not feel this isolated incident is cause for alarm.
What is canine influenza?
Canine influenza is a respiratory disease of dogs caused by the canine influenza A virus (CIV). There are two common CIV strains: H3N8 which caused an outbreak starting in Florida in 2004, and H3N2 which caused the 2015 outbreak in the US (most severe in Chicago). While canine influenza viruses are highly contagious, clinical signs tend to be mild for most infected dogs.
What are the clinical signs?
• Mild form
o Similar signs as Bordetella (kennel cough) infection: a soft, dry cough is most common with some dogs also exhibiting a decreased energy level, decreased appetite, low grade fever, sneezing, and/or drainage from the eyes or nose. If a secondary bacterial infection is present, the nasal discharge might appear thickened or discolored.
• Severe form
o If the infection becomes severe, high fever with increased respiratory rate and/or increased effort to breathe will be seen which indicates that pneumonia may have developed due to worsening of the bacterial infection.
How is it spread?
Canine influenza is spread through airborne respiratory secretions (from sneezing or coughing) most commonly in places where large amounts of dogs are kept in small or confined areas (boarding kennels, grooming facilities, and doggie daycare). The virus can also be spread by humans who have been in contact with infected dogs and carry infectious secretions on their clothing, skin, etc.
What animals are at risk?
All dogs are at risk of infection from CIV, especially those with poor immune system function (puppies, geriatric, sick dogs). Dogs who are boarded, go to daycare, or who routinely visit the groomer have more contact with respiratory pathogens and should be monitored closely for signs of respiratory disease.
There is new evidence that cats might also be susceptible to infection with CIV, though reports are rare. Humans have no risk of contracting either strain of CIV.
Is it treatable?
There is no treatment aimed specifically at CIV, but supportive care options are available to prevent a mild infection from becoming severe. Depending on the clinical signs present, treatment might include antibacterial therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, fluid therapy to correct dehydration, and cough suppressants. If the infection is severe, further testing will be recommended to determine if pneumonia has developed and hospitalization will likely be recommended.
Is there a vaccine available?
There are vaccines available for both the H3N8 strain and H3N2 strain, but there is not one single vaccine that protects against both strains of the influenza virus. The vaccines available are costly and have had limited safety and efficacy testing performed, so we are not carrying them at this time. These vaccines also do not fully prevent infection with CIV, but might be helpful in reducing the severity of disease if infected. If your pet has a weakened immune system or has increased exposure to other dogs, please call us to discuss whether vaccination might be in their best interest.
What can I do to protect my pet?
Use reputable boarding, daycare, and/or grooming facilities that have high standards for cleanliness and who have a protocol for identifying and isolating dogs with signs of a respiratory infection. If your pet has any of the clinical signs of canine influenza virus, please isolate them from other animals and call to schedule an appointment with us immediately so that we can help intervene before the infection becomes severe.