In 2015, an outbreak of a virus in Chicago and the Midwest areas affected over 1000 dogs. The culprit was eventually identified as H3N2, a new strain of the canine influenza virus.
In June of 2017, the new virus emerged again in Florida and Georgia and spread to surrounding states. Eleven states have confirmed cases of Canine Influenza Virus (CIV). Due to the highly contagious nature of this virus, chances are high that Maryland will eventually see this virus circulate within our dog populations as well.
Canine flu was first identified in 2004 in the racing Greyhound population and started appearing in boarding facilities in 2005. Few dogs have immunity to the virus. CIV causes coughing, high fever, lethargy, loss of appetite and nasal discharge. Some dogs will not show symptoms but are still capable of spreading the virus. The newer strain of CIV, H3N2, appears to cause more severe symptoms.
CIV is spread via airborne secretions, through barking, coughing or sneezing, and also through contaminated objects like water and food bowls, leashes or the hands of people. The virus can survive for 12 hours on hands, 24 hours on clothing and 48 hours on most surfaces.
Vaccinations are available for both strains of CIV. Both vaccines consist of an initial series of two injections given 2 to 4 weeks apart and a yearly booster after that. If your dog has been vaccinated against the original strain of CIV, he is still not protected against the newer and more virulent strain. Dogs that have been vaccinated against the original strain still need to receive both doses of the new vaccine to be protected.
You should consider the vaccination if:
- A CIV outbreak has been confirmed where you live.
- A CIV outbreak has been confirmed in an area you plan to travel to with your dog.
- Your dog has regular contact with many different dogs.
- Your dog has regular contact with dogs coming from places where CIV is a known problem.
- Your dog is very young, very old or immune compromised.
Whether or not you choose to vaccinate your dog against CIV, you can follow these steps to reduce exposure to the virus:
- Keep your dog away from unfamiliar dogs and any dogs that are sneezing, coughing or have traveled recently.
- Don’t allow your dog to share food and water bowls, bedding or toys with other dogs.
- Wash or launder pet items and bedding frequently, especially if you have been traveling.
- Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer frequently, especially if you have been touching other dogs.
If your dog is coughing or sneezing and does not seem to feel well, keep him away from dog parks and out of doggie daycare. CIV can be confirmed with a nasal swab. Dogs showing signs of CIV should be seen immediately, but please alert the staff ahead of time if you suspect CIV so we can immediately show you to an exam room.