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The outbreak of Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) in the Chicagoland area has generated a lot of information in the news recently. The following discussion is meant to help you better understand the virus, also referred to as 'dog flu,' and how you can prevent your pet from becoming infected.

What is Canine Influenza?

Canine influenza virus H3N8 has actually been in the United States since 2004. It causes upper respiratory symptoms such as nasal discharge, eye discharge, coughing, lethargy and fever. These symptoms are no different than other upper respiratory diseases such as Bordetella or Distemper in dogs. Severe cases can develop into pneumonia, which is caused by secondary bacterial infections and pets may need to be hospitalized.

Canine Influenza H3N8 and H3N2 WarningThe canine influenza virus is highly contagious and spread by aerosolizing saliva or nasal discharges. It takes 2 to 4 days to develop symptoms and dogs are most contagious at that time. This is typically before you know that your pet is ill.

Introducing H3N2, a New CIV Strain

A second canine influenza virus strain, H3N2, has also been found in the Chicagoland area. This started as the avian influenza from Asia and had never been identified in the United States until recently. The H3N2 virus has more severe symptoms than the H3N8 virus. This virus has also been found in cats and causes similar upper respiratory symptoms.

To help prevent your pet from becoming infected:

  • Keep pets at home.
  • Avoid dog parks, doggie day care, and boarding facilities.
  • Vaccinate your pet, especially if your pet needs to go to the groomer or board while you are away from home.

There is a vaccine available that is proven to protect against the H3N8 virus. However, the vaccine was not developed to protect against the H3N2 virus. It is currently not known if the vaccine will help your pet respond more quickly to the H3N2 virus. To achieve full protection, dogs that have never had the CIV vaccine will need two vaccines 2 to 4 weeks apart.

If your dog or cat is showing signs of an upper respiratory infection, your pet should be seen by your veterinarian. When you arrive at Illiana Veterinary Hospital, keep your pet in the car to limit exposure of your pet to other dogs and cats. You can call the hospital from your vehicle to inform the staff that you are there. We can prepare a room while you wait in your car with your pet.

To keep from spreading the virus to other animals, infected dogs and cats should be isolated from other pets for two weeks. Both canine influenza virus strains can live outside of dogs for up to 24 hours on other surfaces such as cages, floors, and your own clothing. The viruses can be easily killed in the environment by cleaning with diluted bleach, ammonia, or even ordinary soap and water.

Please Remember to Vaccinate Your Pets!

Canine influenza should be taken seriously. To keep your own pet healthy, limit interaction with other cats and dogs. If your pets do need to be boarded or groomed, have your pet vaccinated.

Please call us at (708) 331-4640 to check on whether your pet is up to date on its vaccines or to schedule an appointment.

Dr. Emily Clare Gann is an associate at Illiana Veterinary Hospital in South Holland, IL. A graduate of Purdue University, Dr. Gann earned an undergraduate degree in Animal Science in 1993 and a DVM degree in 1996.