WHAT IS CANINE INFLUENZA?
Canine influenza, is a highly contagious respiratory infection of dogs that is caused by an influenza A virus. In the United States, canine influenza has been caused by two influenza strains, H3N8 and H3N2. The H3N8 strain was first reported in our Country in 2004 and is closely related to the virus that causes equine influenza. It is thought that the equine influenza virus mutated to produce the H3N8 strain. Most recently, an outbreak that started in Chicago and now found in the area of Atlanta is has been determined that is produced by a different strain known as the H3N2. This new strain is almost genetically identical to an H3N2 strain previously reported only in Asia. In Asia, the H3N2 strain is believed to have resulted from the direct transfer of an avian influenza virus to dogs. We do not yet know how this strain got to the United States. At this moment we do not know how widespread the H3N2 strain is within the state of Georgia.
HOW CANINE INFLUENZA CAN SPREAD ACROSS CLAYTON COUNTY?
Canine influenza virus can be spread via direct contact with respiratory secretions from
infected dogs, and by contact with contaminated objects. Because the canine influenza is a new disease most dogs in the area of Clayton County have not had previous exposure to develop immunity. All dogs, regardless of breed or age, are susceptible to infection if exposed to the active virus. Almost all dogs exposed to the virus become infected, and nearly 80% show clinical signs of infection.
WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS ?
However, the risk of any dog being exposed to the canine influenza virus depends on that
dog’s individual lifestyle. Dogs that are frequently or regularly exposed to other dogs – for
example at boarding or daycare facilities, dog parks, grooming salons, pet stores and dog’s shows– are at greater risk of coming into contact with the virus. Puppies, seniors and pregnant dogs are also susceptible to infection. Special precautions are needed with dogs that for some reasons are immunocompromised.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF CANINE INFLUENZA?
Two clinical syndromes have been identified in dogs infected with the canine influenza virus.
• Mild syndrome — Dogs suffering with the mild form of canine influenza develop a soft, moist
cough that persists for 10 to 30 days. They may also be lethargic and have reduced
appetite and a fever. Sneezing and discharge from the eyes and/or nose may also be
observed. Some dogs have a dry cough similar to the traditional "kennel cough"
caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica/parainfluenza virus complex. Dogs with the mild
form of influenza may also have a thick nasal discharge, which is usually caused by a
secondary bacterial infection.
• Severe syndrome — Dogs with the severe form of canine influenza develop high fevers (104ºF to 106ºF) and have clinical signs of pneumonia, such as increased respiratory rates and
effort. Pneumonia may be due to a secondary bacterial infection.
HOW CANINE INFLUENZA IS DIAGNOSED?
The clinical signs described in the previous paragraphs are very general, and may be caused by another disease process like per example one common respiratory condition known as “ the Kennel Cough Syndrome” Any pet displaying these symptoms should be referred to a full-service veterinarian for a full work-up. The best way to diagnose Canine Influenza is a by diagnostic test known as the Canine Respiratory Panel. At our hospital this test cost around $150.00 and it may take several days to obtain the results. Other diagnostic tests, as per example thoracic radiographs, CBC and a Biochemical Profile are recommended to better evaluate your pet.
HOW CANINE INFLUENZA IS TREATED?
The course of treatment depends on the pet's condition, including the presence or absence of a secondary bacterial infection, pneumonia, dehydration, or other medical issues Our veterinarians might prescribe medications, such as an antibiotic (to fight secondary bacterial infections) and/or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (to reduce fever, swelling and pain). Dehydrated pets may need fluid therapy to restore and maintain hydration. Other medications, or even hospitalization, may also be necessary for more severe cases. For the safety of other patients and boarders at our hospital, the cases that require hospitalization are going to be referred to Blue Pearl GVS in Sandy Springs. It may take from 3 to 4 weeks for a dog affected by this viral condition to fully recover.
CAN CANINE INFLUENZA AFFECT PEOPLE OR OTHER PETS?
There is no evidence of transmission of the canine influenza viruses [ H3N8 and H3N2 ] from dogs to people. At this time, there is no evidence of transmission of H3N8 canine influenza from dogs to horses, cats, ferrets, or other animal species. The H3N2 strain, however, has been reported in Asia to infect cats, and there’s also some evidence that guinea pigs and ferrets can become infected. More research is needed to determine which species may be affected by this virus, so we currently recommend that other pets (cats, birds, ferrets, rabbits, rodents, and potbellied pigs) be kept away from infected dogs.
IS THERE A VACCINE FOR CANINE INFLUENZA?
There are several H3N8 strain canine influenza vaccines available to use in the United States.
At this time, there is not an H3N2 vaccine available and it is not known whether the H3N8 vaccine will offer any protection against this strain. Vaccination with DHPP and/ or the “kennel cough” vaccine does not provide any immunity to any of the Canine Influenza strains.
CAN YOU TAKE YOUR DOGS TO THE GROOMERS OR BOARDING FACILITIES DURING THE CANINE INFLUENZA OUTBREAK?
Dog owners should be aware that any situation that brings dogs together increases the risk of spread of communicable illnesses. Good infection control practices can reduce that risk, so dog owners involved in dog shows, sports, or other activities with their dogs or who board their dogs at kennels should ask whether respiratory disease has been a problem there, and whether the facility has a plan for isolating dogs that develop respiratory disease and for notifying owners if their dogs have been exposed to dogs with respiratory disease. As long as good infection control practices are in place, pet owners should not be overly concerned about putting dogs in training facilities, dog parks, kennels, groomers or other areas frequented by dogs.
For more information about this condition please call us at (404) 366-4370.