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When infectious diseases make the news it is generally followed by uncertainty and questions about how these diseases will affect us and our pets.  The recent outbreak of Canine Influenza Virus(CIV) that has occurred in the Chicago area is no exception.  The best way to address these concerns is to educate ourselves about the disease so we can make appropriate decisions about risk of exposure and prevention.  Below is brief summary regarding what we currently know about this outbreak.  If you have additional questions about CIV, then please call our office.

Canine Influenza Primer

1. H3N2 Canine Influenza Virus(CIV)

2. Incubation period: Symptoms generally develop within 2-3 days after exposure

3. Symptoms last 5-7 days

4. Recovered dogs can shed virus for 10 -14 days

5. Symptoms:

  • A dry hacking cough
  • Coughing up a white, foamy phlegm
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Runny nose
  • Rapid breathing
  • Fever 
  • Virus can live in the environment for 24-48 hours in most cases

6. Exposure Risks:As with other canine respiratory infections, the greatest risk factor for exposure is taking your dog into areas where dogs can comingle.For example, boarding facilities, dog parks, grooming salons, dog shows, dog sporting competitions, etc., especially in areas where the virus is known to be active.

7. Prevention:Good general infection control principles are effective

  • Avoid nose to nose contact between dogs
  • Soap and water are very effective at inactivating the virus
  • Wash your hands and change your clothes if you work with or are exposed to sick dogs before handling your own pets at home.
  • The current vaccine available for CIV was developed for the H3N8 virus and not for the strain H3N2.  Is not known yet whether the current vaccine will offer cross protection, but vaccination of high risk of exposure patients can be done in hopes it will offer some protection.  Proper immune response requires 2 vaccinations given 2-4 weeks apart and may take 4 weeks after vaccination is started for full protection.  It should be noted that most vaccinations against respiratory infections may not offer full protection, but generally reduce the severity of the disease if exposure should occur.
  • Avoid travel with your pets into areas where CIV is known to be active.

8. Treatment:

  • Most patients will recover without treatment being necessary.
  • As with most infections that are caused by viruses, there are no specific medications that kill the virus once it is inside the body.  No studies have been conducted to tell us whether human medications like Tamiflu are effective.
  • Symptomatic and supportive treatment with antibiotics should opportunistic bacterial infection occur.  Dog approved Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs(NSAIDS) to reduce fevers and achiness can be used if needed.  Some patients may need hospitalization and IV fluids if they become dehydrated.

9. CIV H3N2 is not known to be contagious to humans, horses, or ferrets. CIV H3N2 potentially can infect cats, but there have been no reports that any cats have become infected in the Chicago area.