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What You Really Need To Know About Canine (Dog) Influenza

We believe in the value of educating our clients as thoroughly as possible at Cuyamaca Animal Hospital. Being kept in the dark about any medical condition in pets only cultivates fear and anxiety for pet parents, and as you know, fear is never a part of our mission.


With the emergence of canine influenza, we recognize that there are a lot of questions out there but unfortunately few answers. In today’s blog post, we will answer all the questions you may have about this disease, and then some. We’ve taken out all the dense and scientific language of medical journals and cut to the chase so that you can be even more equipped (and empowered) as a dog parent!



Here’s what you really need to know about Canine (dog) Influenza:


What is Canine Influenza?

Canine influenza is a respiratory infection originating from an Influenza A virus (not unlike the strains that lead to influenza in humans). Currently, the two known strains of dog influenza are H3N8 and H3N2, the former of which originally developed in horses and then transferred species over to dogs.


What symptoms should I look for in my dog?

To put it simply, there are two forms of canine influenza to look for: mild and severe. Unlike the flu in humans, this disease is not seasonal, so it’s important that you are ready to recognize these signs on a year-round basis:


Mild form symptoms are the most common, and will present in the form of a soft and wet cough that continues anywhere from 10 to 30 days. However, some dogs might present a dry cough that is often misdiagnosed as “kennel cough.” You should suspect a mild form of dog flu if your dog also suffers from nasal discharge.


Severe form symptoms include a high fever in dogs (104°-106°F) and display signs of pneumonia. These signs develop quickly, meaning that a severe case of dog flu can sadly lead to death. However, given that the majority of cases of dog flu are mild, we are happy to report that the mortality rate of dog influenza is fairly low.


Is it contagious?

As is the case with human flu, canine influenza is airborne and highly contagious to other dogs (not humans). This is especially contagious among dogs because the general canine population has yet to develop immunity. 


Dog flu is released into the air by coughing, sneezing, and barking, then transmitted via inhalation by another dog. But dog flu can also contaminate objects like food bowls, surfaces, and even humans who have come into direct contact and who may then pass it along to another dog. 


Therefore, almost any dog environment (homes, kennels, etc.) can become a breeding ground for dog flu. That means cleanliness, sanitation, and hand-washing should be your utmost priority when dealing with sick dogs.



Can my dog get it in Santee or San Diego?

While canine influenza was first discovered in Florida, there has since been cases reported in almost every state in the U.S. Fortunately, the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine conducts dog flu surveillance with their Animal Health Diagnostic Center. You can check their map here for test results posted in Santee or San Diego within the last 90 days. 


Is canine influenza preventable? 

The short answer? Yes! As with any contagious illness, the best form of prevention is vigilance when it comes to avoiding sources of contamination. Keep your dog away from any area (public places, kennels, other homes) where there have been recent reports of canine influenza. In fact, you should avoid those places yourself, even without your dog. If contact is unavoidable, be sure to wash yourself and your clothing thoroughly before coming into contact with your own dog.


There are also vaccines available that address both strains of the dog flu. Vaccinations begin with one administration and then a booster 2-3 weeks later, followed by an annual vaccination.


How is canine influenza treated?

Though there is no cure for canine influenza, treatment is available. The mild form of canine influenza resolves itself without treatment, though your dog may benefit from extra veterinary care such as fluids or an antitussive prescription to help with his cough. 

Treatment for the severe form of canine influenza is absolutely necessary and should be taken seriously. The good news is, for as quickly as the severe form of dog flu develops, the recovery time is just as fast! That’s why it’s crucial to understand your dog’s flu symptoms so that you may take immediate action with your vet and get your dog on the right fluids and antibiotic regimens. 


At Cuyamaca Animal Hospital, we are committed to ongoing and accurate research when it comes to the latest advances in veterinary medicine. We’re proud to provide the Santee and San Diego communities with veterinary care that is fully informed (and prepared!). If your dog has exhibited any symptoms of canine influenza, mild or severe, Cuyamaca Animal Hospital is equipped to ensure only the best treatments for your dog. Call today and schedule an appointment at (619) 448-0707.

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