There are many causes of kennel cough, both bacterial and viral. Canine influenza virus (CIV) is one of the viral causes of kennel cough. This highly contagious respiratory disease has affected thousands of dogs in the United States. Because CIV is a relatively new virus, most dogs have not been exposed to it before. Dogs of any age, breed and vaccine status are susceptible to this infection.
How Could My Dog Catch Canine Influenza Virus?
CIV is easily transmitted between dogs through a combination of aerosols, droplets and direct contact with respiratory secretions. The virus does not survive for a long time in the environment, so dogs usually get CIV when they are in close proximity to other infectious dogs.
Which Dogs Are Prone to Canine Influenza Virus?
Any dog who interacts with large numbers of dogs is at increased risk for exposure. There are vaccines available that may help protect against certain strains of canine influenza -- check with your veterinarian to see if they recommend that your dog be vaccinated.
What Are the General Symptoms of Canine Influenza Virus?
While most dogs will show typical symptoms of kennel cough, a small percentage of dogs will develop a more severe illness. Symptoms of canine influenza virus include:
- Variable fever
- Clear nasal discharge that progresses to thick, yellowish-green mucus
- Rapid/difficult breathing
- Loss of appetite
Can Dogs Die From Canine Influenza Virus?
If CIV is quickly diagnosed and treated, the fatality rate is quite low. Deaths are usually caused by secondary complications, such as pneumonia. It is very important that dogs with CIV receive proper veterinary care.
How Is Canine Influenza Virus Diagnosed?
Veterinarians will typically conduct a thorough physical examination and run a series of tests to diagnose the illness.
How Is Canine Influenza Treated?
Most treatment for canine flu involves supportive treatments that are given while the body fights off the virus. Specific anti-viral medications are available, but they aren’t always used because they work the best early on, often before we realize that the dog is even sick. However, supportive care and appropriate treatment of secondary infections are important. Your veterinarian may advise the following to soothe your dog while the condition runs its course:
- Good nutrition and supplements to raise immunity
- A warm, quiet and comfortable spot to rest
- Medications to treat secondary bacterial infections
- Intravenous fluids to maintain hydration
- Workup and treatment for pneumonia
Be advised, while most dogs will fight the infection within 10 to 30 days, secondary infections require antibiotics and, in the case of pneumonia, hospitalization.
What Should I Do if I Think My Dog Has Canine Influenza Virus?
If you think your dog has canine influenza virus, immediately isolate him from all other dogs and call your veterinarian.
Can I Catch Canine Influenza From My Dog?
No. There is no evidence that dogs can transmit CIV to humans.
How Can I Help Prevent My Dog From Spreading the Disease?
Any dog infected with CIV should be kept isolated from other for 10-14 days from the onset of symptoms. Dogs are most infectious before symptoms are apparent, and can continue shedding the virus for around 10 days. This means that by the time symptoms are seen, other dogs may have already been exposed.
I Foster/Work With Multiple Dogs. What Advice Do You Have For Me?
The risk of CIV is always present. That’s why it’s important to work with a veterinarian to develop a plan of action in the event of an outbreak. You’ll want to diagnose and treat the issue promptly.
- Routinely monitor animals for signs of illness and keep medical records.
- Isolate sick animals from healthy animals, especially those with signs of respiratory disease.
- Wash hands with soap and water after handling each animal.
- Gloves should be worn when handling infected dogs or cleaning contaminated cages.
- Use antibiotics with care.
- Remember that CIV is generally a very treatable disease.