This past summer has proven to be a very active flu season – for dogs, that is. Pet owners, their canine companions and veterinarians across the country are on high alert against canine flu; areas including Florida, New York City, Philadelphia and Denver have all been particularly hard hit by the flu.
Help is on the way, though. This May, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the first vaccine for canine influenza. The vaccine is now available from your veterinarian.
Canine influenza is an extremely contagious respiratory infection. Signs of the infection include cough, sneezing, runny nose and, sometimes, a fever. Canine influenza bears a close resemblance to other canine respiratory illnesses and only diagnostic tests can confirm the presence of canine influenza. It was first discovered in 2004 and has so far been documented in 30 states.
Dog owners should be careful. If you notice your dog is coughing, sneezing, or has a runny nose you should not shrug it off as a little cold or even allergies. The early signs of canine influenza are coughing or gagging. Clinical symptoms such as coughing, runny nose, lethargy, depression, and a fever as high as 103-107 degrees typically appear within 7 to 10 days post exposure. The severe form of canine influenza can lead to viral pneumonia.
While highly contagious, the good news is that the virus is easily killed by soap and water, disinfectants and 10 percent bleach solutions. Transmission can be prevented by isolating all suspected dogs, thorough cleaning of all cages and exposed surfaces such as floors, kennels food dishes and bedding. Animal caretakers should be diligent about wearing disposable gloves or washing hands in between handling dogs and any urine, stool, or saliva, and before entering or leaving any facility that houses dogs.
Almost all dogs exposed to canine influenza become infected; about 80 percent fully develop the illness, while about 20 percent do not. Most dogs recover quickly; however, some dogs may contract pneumonia due to a secondary infection.
While the death rate for canine influenza is low, secondary infections and other complications can sometimes lead to death. It is spread wherever dogs are in close contact with one another. Dogs that stay at home or have limited contact with other dogs are at low risk.
Like the flu that you contract, canine influenza is mostly treated by providing supportive care while the virus runs its course. Antibiotics may be used if secondary infections develop. The canine influenza vaccine is a “lifestyle” vaccine and is recommended for dogs at high-risk of contracting the virus.
Canine influenza does not infect humans. If you feel that your dog has contracted canine influenza or if you would like to make an appointment to discuss the Canine Flu vaccine, call Central Broward Animal Hospital for an appointment. As the leader in veterinary services for the Plantation, Sunrise, Davie and Ft Lauderdale FL areas, our veterinarians and staff members understand the complete medical needs of your pets.