by Dr.Brittany Marvel, DVM, Owner of Chasing Tails Mobile Veterinary Services
Recently, there has been a lot of buzz about breakouts of Canine Influenza in Texas. This article will answer many common questions about the disease including: how it is spread, and how best to prevent it. So, what is canine influenza (also known as the Dog Flu)? It’s a dog virus caused by the Influenza A virus. Dogs that go to boarding, play care, and dog parks are at the greatest risk for exposure as it’s commonly spread through direct contact with infected dogs through nasal secretions (barking, coughing, and sneezing can all spread the virus). It can also be spread through contaminated objects as well (such as kennel surfaces, food and water bowls, collar, and leashes). All breeds and ages are at risk when they are exposed to the virus. Clinical signs of the dog flu often reflect those of kennel cough as it starts with a persistent cough. Dogs also usually have thick nasal and eye discharge and develop a significant fever. This makes your pet overall just feel bad and he or she will not want to move or do much. Just like us with the flu virus, these dogs often lose their appetite as well. About 80% of dogs will develop illness once exposed. On the flip side, about 20% of dogs may be carrying and spreading the virus but not showing any signs of illness. Most dogs do recover in 2-3 weeks, but in rare circumstances, the virus can lead to secondary bacterial infections and pneumonia so close monitoring and seeking out veterinary care is really important. In even more rare circumstances (less than 10%) dogs may pass away from complications associated with the dog flu. Be aware that once exposed these dogs are most contagious and spread the virus two to four days later when they are not showing any symptoms. Therefore, isolation of any pet that has been exposed is important for a minimum of 3 weeks. The two most common strands identified in the USA are the H3N8 and H3N2 viral stands. Fortunately, we have vaccinations that will help prevent disease and protect your dog against these strands. Most veterinary clinics will carry the bivalent vaccination (covers both stands). Vaccination is recommended based on risk exposure. So, if your pet goes to boarding, grooming, dog parks, play care or other social events with other dogs then vaccination is recommended to keep all dogs involved safe and healthy. Contact your veterinarian today to discuss more.