Canine influenza (CI) is a highly contagious viral infection that infects dogs but not humans. It can be spread through shared air, like at a kennel, groomer, dog park or day care. It can also be spread indirectly through objects (bowls, blankets, toys, etc...) or even people who have come in contact with an infected dog. The virus on a surface can stay active for up to 48 hours. The virus attacks the respiratory system causing an inflammatory response resulting in rhinitis, tracheitis, bronchitis and bronchiolitis. This allows for secondary bacterial infections to occur, in more severe cases dogs with CI develop clinical signs of pneumonia, and there are even recorded cases of death caused by the H2N3 strain.
In less technical terms, this is a highly infectious viral infection that causes coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and fever. Depending on the strain and how your dog’s immune system reacts, symptoms can be mild to severe, and in rare cases deadly.
Like most viral infections treatment is largely supportive but a veterinarian is required to know what kind of support is needed for your pet, each pet reacts differently and may even need hospitalization to get through the infection. Some of these treatments may include fluids to maintain hydration, antibiotics to fight off/ prevent secondary bacterial infections, and anti-inflammatories to reduce fever and inflammation. Again though, each pet is different and requires veterinary expertise to get through the infection.
Prevention is always best when dealing with any illness, vaccinations are available for both strains to reduce the risk of infection. We at Lewis Animal Hospital now offer a bivalent vaccine that is for both H3N2 and H3N8 (the strains of CI found in the US).
For more information about Canine influenza click this link to go the AVMA’s page.