Is all the hype about Canine influenza virus just that, hype?  Unfortunately it is not.  Canine influenza virus or CIV, is the real deal and it is here in Texas.  We are hoping that we aren’t facing the same kind of outbreak that the Midwest faced in 2015 but so far, we do have 5 confirmed cases in various counties.  There have been two confirmed cases in Houston (Harris County), and we were just made aware of 3 more cases in the following counties:  Fort Bend, Hood and Travis.  As you know, Travis County is close to home so we really want to make sure that we get the word out to our clients.  

Hill Country Animal Hospital has the combined vaccine that protects dogs from both strains of CIV with one injection.  If your dog has never been vaccinated for either strain, your dog will require an initial vaccine and a booster 3-4 weeks later.  If your dog has been fully vaccinated for either strain of CIV to include an initial vaccine and the booster, your dog will only need a booster of this new, combination vaccine.  If you aren’t sure about your dog’s risk factors or vaccine status, call us at 210-695-4455.  

Please read this fact sheet from Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory for an all encompassing overview of Canine influenza virus.  

What is canine influenza?
Canine influenza virus (CIV), or dog flu, is a highly contagious respiratory infection of dogs that is caused by an influenza A virus. In the U.S., canine influenza has been caused by two influenza strains. The first strain reported in the United States, beginning in 2004, was an H3N8 influenza A virus. This strain is closely related to the virus that causes equine influenza, and it is thought that the equine influenza virus mutated to produce the canine strain.
In 2015, an outbreak that started in Chicago was caused by a separate strain, H3N2. This strain was almost genetically identical to an H3N2 strain previously reported only in Asia – specifically, Korea, China and Thailand. This H3N2 strain is believed to have resulted from the direct transfer of an avian influenza virus – possibly from among viruses circulating in live bird markets – to dogs.
Two clinical syndromes have been seen in dogs infected with the canine influenza virus—a mild form of the
disease and a more severe form that is accompanied by pneumonia.
Mild form — Dogs suffering with the mild form of canine influenza develop a soft, moist cough that persists for 10 to 30 days. They may also be lethargic and have reduced appetite and a fever. Sneezing and discharge from the eyes and/or nose may also be observed. Some dogs have a dry cough similar to the traditional “kennel cough” caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica/parainfluenza virus complex. Dogs with the mild form of influenza may also have a thick nasal discharge, which is usually caused by a secondary bacterial infection.
Severe form — Dogs with the severe form of canine influenza develop high fevers (104ºF to 106ºF) and have clinical signs of pneumonia, such as increased respiratory rates and effort. Pneumonia may be due to a secondary bacterial infection.
Are all dogs at risk of getting canine influenza?
Because this is still an emerging disease and dogs in the U.S. have not been exposed to it before, almost all dogs, regardless of breed or age, lack immunity to it and are susceptible to infection if exposed to the active virus. Virtually all dogs exposed to the virus become infected, and nearly 80% show clinical signs of disease, though most exhibit the mild form described above.
However, the risk of any dog being exposed to the canine influenza virus depends on that dog’s lifestyle.  Dogs that are frequently or regularly exposed to other dogs – for example at boarding or day care facilities, dog parks, grooming salons, or social events with other dogs present – are at greater risk of coming into contact with the virus. Also, as with other infectious diseases, extra precautions may be needed with puppies, elderly or pregnant dogs, and dogs that are immunocompromised. Dog owners should talk with their veterinarian to assess their dog’s risk.

Is there a vaccine available for canine influenza?
Vaccines are available for both the H3N8 and H3N2 strains. For questions concerning vaccination options, contact your veterinarian.
Do dogs die from canine influenza?
Fatal cases of pneumonia resulting from infection with canine influenza virus have been reported in dogs, but the fatality rate is low (less than 10%). Most dogs recover in 2-3 weeks.

Testing

Testing is necessary to determine whether your dog has CIV.  We cannot tell solely by clinical signs.  Your veterinarian can provide you with recommendations if your dog presents with symptoms.  The main thing you need to remember is that timing is very important.  It is critical to take samples within 1-2 days of the onset of clinical signs which include runny nose, low grade fevers, and coughing.  Dogs with clinical signs for more than 7 days require different testing options.