A serious outbreak of canine influenza, a respiratory infection, has been spreading throughout Illinois and parts of Wisconsin in recent weeks. Here is everything you need to know about the infection to protect your best friend.
- Canine influenza, or "dog flu", is a highly contagious infection.
- Outbreaks are more commonly seen in situations where groups of susceptible dogs are in close contact, such as shelters, kennels, dog day care facilities and boarding facilities.
- Canine influenza is spread via aerosolized respiratory secretions and contaminated objects (kennel surfaces, food and water bowls, collars and leashes) and people moving between infected and uninfected dogs.
- The virus can remain viable (alive and able to infect) on surfaces for up to 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours, and on hands for 12 hours.
- The incubation period is usually two to four days from exposure to onset of clinical signs.
- Although most dogs have a milder form of canine influenza and recover without complications, some may develop severe pneumonia.
- The virus damages and predisposes the respiratory tract to secondary bacterial infections that contribute to nasal discharge and coughing.
- Virtually all dogs that are exposed become infected with the virus, but approximately 80% develop clinical signs of disease. The approximately 20% of infected dogs that do not exhibit clinical signs of disease can still shed the virus and can spread the infection.
- Canine influenza virus infection often resembles the illness associated with canine infectious tracheobronchitis ("kennel cough").
- The majority of infected dogs exhibit the mild form of canine influenza - cough that persists for 10 to 21 days despite treatment with antibiotics and cough suppressants.
- Some dogs are more severely affected with clinical signs of pneumonia, such as a high-grade fever (104°F to 106°F) and increased respiratory rate and effort.
- Treatment is largely supportive - fluid therapy, anti-inflammatories and antibiotics.
- Most dogs recover from canine influenza within 2-3 weeks.
- The morbidity rate (the number of exposed animals that develop disease) associated with canine influenza is estimated at 80%. Deaths occur mainly in dogs with the severe form of disease; the mortality rate is low (less than 10%).
- Dog owners whose dogs are coughing or exhibiting other signs of respiratory disease should not participate in activities or bring their dogs to facilities where other dogs can be exposed to the virus.
Bay View Veterinary Clinic has a test for the virus where warranted. If you suspect your dog may have the virus (exhibits coughing, gagging, rapid breathing, lethargy, lack of appetite or a fever), please call us immediately at (262) 363-9993.