Canine Influenza is a disease caused by an influenza virus that mutated from the equine (horse) influenza virus a few years ago. The disease was first discovered in racing greyhound kennels in Florida and has subsequently been documented in a number of areas in the country including Southern California.
Much of the media coverage of this disease has been inflammatory and has overstated the danger of this disease to our pets. Here are the facts about canine influenza:
- It is caused by an influenza virus, which originally infected only horses. The virus mutated in such a way as to be become infectious to dogs.
- The diagnosis is made based on clinical symptoms of coughing, nasal discharge and fever. The diagnosis can be confirmed by blood tests.
- It is an airborne virus and is highly contagious, particularly when pets are in close contact (such as in boarding kennels, grooming parlors etc). Pets become infected by the inhalation of the airborne virus. Up to 100% of the pets exposed to the virus may contract the virus. However, up to 30-50% of those pets exposed may never develop symptoms of illness, but carry the virus and spread it to others.
- Of the pets that do develop illness some may develop secondary bacterial infections, which can be fatal in 3 to 10% of the cases. If pets are treated aggressively from the first sign of coughing, the prognosis for a full recovery is very good.
- The “kennel cough” vaccine does not protect against this disease.
- The virus does not affect humans or other pet species.
- A vaccine is now available, which will help protect pets from this disease. The immunization can be given as early as 9 weeks of age. A booster vaccine is required the first year 2-3 weeks after the initial immunization. Yearly boosters are recommended thereafter.
If you pet develops a cough and/or other upper respiratory symptoms such as sneezing and nasal discharge, you should seek veterinary attention right away. There is clear evidence that early medical intervention is the key to reducing the severity of this disease. Most likely tests will be run on your pet, which may include bloodwork, sputum cultures and radiographs of the chest. Treatment will be instituted with antibiotics and possibly anti viral drugs. Pets in Alta Loma, Rancho Cucamonga, Upland, Ontario, Claremont, Fontana and the Inland Empire presented with severe symptoms may require hospitalization and more aggressive treatment including intravenous fluids, drugs, nebulization treatment etc.
In conclusion, canine influenza is a disease that will affect many dogs in the coming years (high morbidity) but with appropriate treatment, the risk of this disease being fatal is quite small.
If you have any further questions regarding this disease, feel free to discuss it with our staff.