Naper_iStock_000080765437_LargeIt all began in the spring of 2015: Dog after dog kept turning up in veterinary clinics throughout the Chicagoland area with a mysterious illness. In April 2015, scientists at Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin finally determined that the illness was caused by a strain of canine influenza known as H3N2. By then more than 1,000 Chicagoland dogs had been sickened.

Unfortunately, canine influenza is not just last year’s problem. The disease has reared its ugly head again this year and is expected to continue spreading to dogs throughout the country. As dog owners and animal lovers, it’s important that we educate others and ourselves about the dangers of canine influenza and learn what we can do to help prevent it’s spread.

What Is Canine Influenza?

Canine influenza, also known as dog flu, is an upper respiratory infection. The current strain affecting U.S. dogs is an H3N2 influenza virus originating in Asia (Korea, China, and Thailand specifically).

This particular virus is believed to be an avian influenza virus that mutated and was able to spread to dogs. Canine influenza is highly contagious, and because the virus is relatively new to the U.S., our dogs haven’t had a chance to develop immunity. This lack of natural immunity is the reason why almost all dogs exposed to the canine influenza virus will become infected, with up to 80% showing symptoms.

What Are The Symptoms?

It’s important to have canine influenza diagnosed as quickly as possible so that treatment can begin right away. Give us a call immediately if your dog is experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Persistent cough
  • Runny nose
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Reduced appetite

Older dogs or others with weakened immune systems, such as puppies or pregnant females, are at higher risk of developing a deadly form of pneumonia as a result of canine influenza infection.

How Is The Disease Spread?

Any dog is potentially at risk of contracting the flu, but the more contact a dog has with other dogs the greater the chance of him or her becoming infected. Canines who frequent dog parks, boarding or day care facilities, grooming salons, or regularly visit with other dogs are at an increased risk.

Treatment And Prevention

As with most viruses, there is no “cure” for canine influenza. Supportive care in the form of proper nutrition, plenty of fluids, and rest will help your dog mount an effective immune response. In some instances, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to treat a secondary infection or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory for fever/pain. Severely dehydrated pets may require fluid therapy.

Keeping sick dogs isolated is absolutely critical in the prevention of canine influenza. Your dog should stay away from other dogs until he or she is well. We recommend that dogs ages 6 weeks of age and older be vaccinated for canine influenza virus. The vaccine is administered in two separate doses and is especially important for dogs that frequent kennels, doggie daycares, or anywhere a lot of other dogs are present.

If you have any questions regarding canine influenza or would like to schedule an appointment for your dog, don’t hesitate to give The Pet Experts at Naperville Animal Hospital a call.