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What is canine influenza?

It is an infectious disease that only affects dogs and is caused by a virus that is currently spreading across the country. Originating in Florida in 2003, this virus causes severe respiratory illness in dogs.

This interview with Ehrlich Animal Hospital Veterinarian Dr. Farid Saleh on Bay News 9 provides information about Canine Influenza and recommendations for protecting you pet.

How contagious is canine influenza?

It is highly contagious. Almost every dog exposed to the virus will become infected. Dogs can be shedding the virus for 2-4 days before showing and clinical symptoms. There have been many outbreaks of this virus that can be traced back to just one sick dog.

How can my dog get canine influenza?

It is spread through direct contact with an infected dog, through the air (coughing or sneezing), or from contaminated surfaces such as clothing. Most dogs are at risk to catch this infection, regardless of age or breed. Dogs at higher risk of catching the infection:

-Adopted from a shelter or pet store

-Attend training classes, doggie daycare, grooming facilities, or boarding

-Enter in dog shows or events

-Encounter other dogs on daily walks

What are the signs of canine influenza?

The most common sign is a persistent cough. Since coughing is a common symptom to many diseases or problems, it can make diagnosing canine influenza very difficult. This cough can last for up to a month. Other symptoms include low-grade fever, nasal discharge, lack of energy, and a decrease in appetite.

What happens if my dog gets infected?

There is no specific treatment for this disease. Many times other secondary infections can occur since the immune system is compromised. Supportive care and hospitalization may be necessary to help your dog overcome this illness.

How serious is canine influenza?

It can be quite serious in some dogs, causing a high fever and pneumonia. Dogs that contract pneumonia from canine influenza will get permanent lung damage. A few dogs have died from complications that are associated with the disease.

How can I protect my dog?

A new and safe vaccine was approved for use in the US. The initial vaccine requires 2 doses given 2 weeks apart, which should then be followed by an annual revaccination. If you currently have your dog vaccinated for kennel cough (Bordetella), then they should be receiving the Canine Influenza Virus vaccine as well.