Canine Influenza (Dog Flu / Canine Flu)
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What is Canine Influenza?
Canine Influenza (also called Canine Flu or Dog Flu) is a highly contagious illness in dogs that is caused by the spread by two different virus strains, H3N8 and H3N2. It is a relatively new disease that began affecting dogs in 2004.
The first case was diagnosed in Greyhounds at a racing track in Florida. This strain of the virus, H3N8, is believed to be similar to the the influenza virus affecting horses. Scientists confirmed the virus mutated to cross species from horses to infect dogs. Within 3 months of its discovery, cases of the H3N8 canine flu and symptoms of Canine Influenza began sprouting up in various regions. Since then, the H3N8 strain has been reported in 41 states and Washington D.C.
Then, in 2015, several dogs again began having Canine Influenza symptoms. It was discovered this strain of the virus, H3N2, showed similarities to the Avian (bird) flu from Asia. This strain spread even quicker with 23 states confirming infections within just 5 months of its first diagnosis in the US. As was the case in 2004, it is thought that the virus was able to mutate and cross species from birds to dogs. Thousands upon thousands of dogs across the US have been infected with the H3N2 strain of the Dog Flu in the two years since it emerged. (Learn more at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
What Causes Canine Influenza?
Canine Flu, a respiratory infection, is caused by the H3N8 or H3N2 Canine Influenza viruses.
This is a highly contagious virus that is easily spread between dogs. Since it is a relatively new disease and dogs from the United States have never been exposed to it before, all dogs are susceptible to the condition and have no natural immunity. Nearly every dog who comes into contact with the live, active virus will become infected. For this reason, it is best to avoid a Canine Influenza environment if at all possible.
How is Canine Influenza Transmitted?
Canine Influenza is an airborne disease and is highly contagious. It can spread like wildfire. If an animal shelter, boarding kennel or other pet facility develops an outbreak, the entire facility will need to temporarily shut down. Once a dog is exposed, he will begin to show symptoms of the Canine Flu within 2-4 days. It is during this period that he is most contagious, shedding the virus at a prolific rate and infecting nearly every dog he comes in contact with. The H3N8 virus is normally contagious for up to 7 days, but can be shed for as long as 10 days in some cases. The H3N2 virus can be spread between dogs for as long as 24 days.
Contact with contaminated objects or infected animals.
What Are The Symptoms of Canine Influenza?
If a dog is exposed to a Canine Flu environment and contracts the disease, he will begin showing symptoms of Canine Influenza within 2-4 days.
The majority of dogs contract a mild form of the virus, whereas other dogs develop a secondary infection and suffer from a more severe form of it. Both strains cause the same signs and symptoms of the Dog Flu:
1. Coughing: This may be a soft, moist cough and may, at other times, sound and act similar to what is found in Kennel Cough. It may cause the dog discomfort and a sore throat, but otherwise should not create much damage. The cough usually persists for 10-30 days, depending on the severity of the infection.
2. Lethargy: Dogs may be overly tired, have a loss of appetite, and act “depressed”. Similar to how humans act when we have the flu, dogs infected with Canine Flu will feel run down and drained. Adequate rest and plenty of fluids are recommended.
3. Nasal Discharge: The nasal discharge is generally clear at first but can turn yellow or green. This discharge can at times become thick, if caused by a secondary infection. Medication can be given to the ill dog to help clear this up. Discharge from the nasal passages is one of the most common Canine Influenza symptoms.
4. Fever: If the dog develops a severe infection, a fever will most likely occur. At times, dogs may have a fever that reaches 104 to 106 degrees.
5. Pneumonia: This is a secondary infection caused by the illness. It only occurs in severe cases. Dogs that develop pneumonia may need to be hospitalized. These dogs are usually very young, elderly, or immune-compromised. Dogs suffering from the more severe form may have an increased respiratory rate as well.
Only 10-20% of dogs infected with the Canine Influenza virus, or the Dog Flu, will contract the more severe form.
How is Canine Influenza Treated?
Thankfully, the mortality rate for this disease is low, reaching between 5-8%. Most dogs recover fully within 2-3 weeks of showing symptoms. However, proper treatment of Canine Influenza will expedite the healing process:
Antibiotics will be used to treat dogs who contract a secondary infection or show signs of yellow/green nasal discharge, or extreme coughing, indicating pneumonia.
Ask your veterinarian what Dog Flu medications are best suited for your dog’s particular symptoms.
Just like with us, the flu virus attacks the weak spots in our, or in this case our dog’s, immune systems. The first line of defense in treating Canine Flu is to boost the immune system.
Vitamin C (L-ascorbate) will boost the dog’s immune system, helping him to overcome the Dog Flu faster. You can administer Vitamin C to a dog in the dosage of 500 mg per pound of body weight. You can also provide Vitamin E (DL-alpha Tocopherol) to aid the dog’s immune system. Whenever you feed a dog vitamins, make sure he drinks plenty of water to help the nutrients move through his system.
Dog Flu causes coughing, sometimes severe. The constant coughing can make the throat feel dry and sore. Honey is a big help for soothing an aching throat! It’s is packed with rich nutrients that will help the dog combat the disease, and coat his throat. Other dogs may develop a “wet cough” with Canine Flu. The honey can help to break up the mucus in the throat and move it out. A half to 1 teaspoon of honey several times a day should provide some much-needed relief.
Adequate nutrition: The stronger and healthier your dog’s body, the easier it will be to fight the Canine Influenza virus. Select a high-quality dog food and feed your dog 3-4 small meals per day. You may also want to consider natural supplements, oils or fresh foods to enhance his current diet and help support his immune system.
Comfortable sleeping arrangements: If your dog has been exposed to the Dog Flu, your goal should be to make him as comfortable as possible. If you do not already have one, look for a large, soft bed where he can rest. He should be kept in a clean, dry place out of the weather.
How Can Canine Influenza Be Prevented?
For pet owners, having a dog suffer from Canine Flu can be quite taxing . . . just as much on the heart as the wallet.
For pet care businesses, the heavy burden far exceeds just concerns about costs. Pet care business who are dealt with the blow of this fast-spreading illness will have to shut down for a brief amount of time to prevent further transmission. While the business itself surely isn’t to blame for an outbreak such as this, the effects will surely be felt for a long time..
This is why prevention is the best option and here’s how it can be done:
Keep your dog up to date on his vaccines.
Pet owners can breathe a little easier now that vaccines are in place for both the H3N2 and H3N8 strains of the Canine Flu. Most kennels, daycare and boarding facilities require only a Kennel Cough vaccine. However, if you are boarding your dog, speak to your vet about vaccinations for the Dog Flu as well. Your dog will need to be vaccinated against both strains, as the vaccine for one is not effective for the other.
The H3N8 vaccine requires two shots two weeks apart. This is important for pet parents to be aware of in order to plan accordingly and have their dog properly vaccinated before boarding or kenneling pets.
Keep an eye on your dog’s pals.
Make it a habit to consistently look for signs and symptoms in other dogs that may associate with yours and ask their owners if their dog has been vaccinated.
Choose a doggie daycare, dog boarding, pet resort, or kennel facility carefully.
Always make sure that the facility is doing all they can to prevent outbreaks of Canine Influenza and other pet related illnesses. Facilities should have both surface sanitation protocols and air sanitation equipment in place.
Both of these methods are critical and both should be used.
1) Immediate Isolation. Isolating a dog that is showing symptoms of Canine Flu is the very first step to keeping the virus contained and limit the chances of an outbreak in your facility. All pet care facilities should have a quarantine room (or area) and a separate entrance/exit for infected dogs.
2) Thorough Sanitation & Disinfection. Proper sanitation techniques are key in containing and killing the Canine Influenza virus. Because the virus can survive for up to 12-48 hours on surfaces, it is pertinent to clean and disinfect counters, tables, floors, walls, cages, bowls, toys and other surfaces that droplet nuclei could have been spread by an infected dog.
Find out how PetAirapy’s surface disinfectant systems go where cleaning disinfectants and chemicals can’t for a 99.9% kill rate.
While disinfecting surfaces and washing hands are all an important part of prevention, the only way to truly prevent the Dog Flu in your facility is by sanitizing the air.
PetAirapy has developed unique, one-of-kind air-purifying systems designed to destroy the harmful microbes that threaten the health of your facility. Our proprietary, commercial grade Ultra Violet Germicidal Irradiation Light (UVGI) air cleaning units have been independently tested and proven effective against pet pathogens. In fact, they can destroy 99.9% of harmful bacteria and viruses— including the Canine Influenza viruses.