The canine flu has taken the life of 5 dogs in the Chicago area, veterinarians have confirmed over a 1000 cases diagnosed, and it is believed there are still many dogs that have not been diagnosed for the virus, but carry it. The canine flu, known as Canine Influenza Virus (CIV), or by its identification code H3N8, is a highly contagious virus that dogs can transmit to each other very easily.
What makes the virus so dangerous. is how new the virus is to the canine community. The virus has only been infecting dogs for the past 11 years. Most dogs have never been exposed to it, therefore making dogs more vulnerable to a rapidly spreading virus. The virus is more dangerous for pups and for older dogs. If a secondary bacterial infection develops in a dog’s lung as a result of contracting the virus, and that infection develops into pneumonia, complications from the canine influenza virus can lead to death.
Human beings can not catch this flu from their dogs, yet there is no dog that is immune to it. Pet owners need to be informed of what they can do to prevent their dog from catching CIV, and how your dog can be treated, if contraction of the virus is suspected.
Keep your dog safe
Dogs catch the canine virus from other dogs. If you have to leave your dog in a day care, make sure there have not been any break outs of the virus at that location. This week’s epidemic in Chicago began to spread when a PetSmart boarding facility began to see infected dogs. As a result, PetSmart closed it’s PetsHotels in Lincoln Park and Evanston, Illinois. Dr, Robyn Jaynes, a veterinarian and director of quality assurance for PetSmart sent a news release stating:
.”Because of the highly contagious nature of canine influenza, we have made the decision to proactively close these three PetsHotels out of an abundance of caution,”
Another area you may want to avoid are public parks. Parks that are full of other dogs may be dangerous during an epidemic period. Some owners let their dogs run free at parks, and nothing can keep other dogs from approaching your dog, and possibly spreading the virus if infected.
Until the epidemic subsides, avoid letting your dog use stranger’s water containers. It is pleasant when a restaurant or a place of business displays water basins for their patron’s dogs to be able to sip, but in this case ,it is best that you provide hydration for your dog, keeping them safe from possible virus contaminated drinking water.
How the virus started
CIV first appeared in 2004 among racing greyhounds in Florida. Several dogs appeared to have developed a unidentified respiratory illness that was later identified as equine virus, H3N8 , in other words a virus particular to horses. The H3N8 virus has been inflicting horses for over 40 years. At one point, the virus crossed over to dogs, and this canine strain of the virus has mutated and become a dog-specific lineage of the H3N8.
The canine virus has been reported in 30 U.S. states, and it has not appeared anywhere else in the world to date.
What you can do at home
Keep your dog away from cold places. If you need to take your dog out to do his duties, make sure your dog is well insulated if it is cold out. Make sure your dog is able to dry up quickly if he or she gets wet outside from snow or rain. Blow dry your dog’s hair while you warm them up after coming in from the cold.
Keep your home clean, especially if your dog did contract the virus, and is now recovering. Make sure your dog is eating well, and is properly hydrated. Trim your dog’s hair and have your dog kept clean. Provide a comfortable and warm place for your dog to sleep.
If you dog is recovering from the virus, let he or she rest, and keep them calmer than usual. Like any human flu, your dog needs time to get stronger and recuperate.
How the virus is transmitted
The canine virus is easily transmitted between dogs. If a dog coughs or sneezes, the droplets of their sneeze can travel up to 20 feet, so it is important to keep your dog away from any other coughing dog. If your own dog starts coughing, pay close attention to how often, and how much strain the cough is inflicting. If the cough persists, it is a good time to consider taking your dog to a veterinarian.
The dog virus can be transmitted through coughing or sneezing droplets, or through direct contact with other dogs in any activity that allow for respiratory secretions to travel from one dog to another. Any dog infected with CIV should be kept isolated from other dogs for at least 10-14 days from the onset of symptoms.
Symptoms can take up to 10 days to show up after a dog is exposed to the Canine Influenza Virus. So that means that a dog can have it, and spread it, without a dog owner knowing. The symptoms your dog may develop are:
- Nasal mucus
- Withdrawn or lethargic
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of appetite
If you see any of the above symptoms persist, you should take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
Testing your dog
Luckily, if you suspect your dog is infected with the canine flu you can ask your veterinarian to have he or she tested. Testing to confirm canine influenza virus infection is available. It is still ultimately the responsibility of your veterinarian to tell you if he or she believes it is appropriate.
There are two methods of testing for the canine influenza virus, one is to take a sample of your dog’s respiratory secretion for testing, another way is to take a blood sample for testing at the time your dog is displaying symptoms, and a second blood test a couple of weeks later.
Treatment for CIV is a similar to the treatment of human influenza. There is no antiviral medication available, so every dog owner with an infected dog needs to give appropriate care to their dog in order to avoid a secondary infection to develop. It is imperative that you give your dog good nutrition and vitamin supplements to help their body’s immune system as it battles the virus.
Make sure your dog is kept in a warm, quiet, and comfortable place as he or she rests. If your dog does develop a secondary infection, make sure proper medication is given to help fight it. Keep your dog well hydrated, even if it means administering intravenous fluids to combat their weakness. Your veterinarian will know best if this is needed.
There is a vaccine
The dog flu vaccine is available. If you want to take preventative measure you can ask your veterinarian to administer the vaccine to your dog. The vaccine is given in two doses. The doses are given two to four weeks apart. If your dog has already contracted the virus, administering the vaccine will not stop your dog from having symptoms, nor will it cure the virus.