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Canine influenza virus

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, canine influenza (CI), or dog flu, is a highly contagious viral infection affecting dogs and also cats. Influenza viruses belong to the family Othomyxoviridae. Canine Influenza is a Type A influenza virus and is further identified based on the composition of two specific proteins in the lipid outer layer of the capsid: hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA). At present, two strains of canine influenza virus have been identified in the United States: H3N8 and H3N2.

Canine Flu Infographic

How It's Spread

The virus can survive on surfaces for 48 hours; clothing/blankets for 24 hours; and hands/skin for 12 hours. The virus is spread through drops and aerosolized respiratory secretions from coughing, sneezing and barking. This is why it is so commonly seen in boarding kennels, grooming facilities, day cares, dog parks and animal shelters. It can also be spread through objects such as water/food bowls, leashes, blankets, clothing and people via petting/holding. If your dog is exposed to the virus but does not develop symptoms, your pet can still spread the virus. 

Symptoms

The most common clinical sign is a cough that persists despite treatment with appropriate antibiotic and cough suppressants. Other dogs may develop a soft, moist cough or a dry cough that resembles “kennel cough.” Signs can progress to include nasal and ocular discharge, sneezing, lethargy and anorexia. Some patients can even become febrile, upwards of 106ºF, and exhibit signs of pneumonia. Even though most dogs The incubation period is 1-5 days, with clinical signs appearing 2-3 days after initial exposure.

Since there is no true “flu season,” dogs are at susceptible all year long if they go to high risk areas, including boarding facilities, groomers, dog parks, day cares, etc. Basically any high traffic area for dogs increases your dog’s chance for exposure. If you work at any of these facilities, you should be aware of the risks as well since you can carry the virus on your clothing or person.

Treatment

It is important to vaccinate your dog for the strain(s) found in your area. The Louisiana SPCA Community Clinic offers a combination vaccination with H3N8/H3N2, or the single H3N2 vaccine. If your dog has never been vaccinated, the vaccine will need to be given in a 2-set series 3-4 weeks apart, then on an annual basis. Each dose of the vaccine costs $10. The yearly vaccine can be added to annual wellness visits for an additional $10.

To schedule your dog's appointment, please call 504.363.1333 or submit an appointment request at la-spca.org/appointments.

Additional Information

  • Neither strain can be transmitted to humans.
  • Louisiana has a confirmed case of the H3N2 strain.
  • Cats can become infected with the H3N2 strain of the virus and show many similar clinical signs. There is no vaccine available for cats at this time.
  • There are two strains of the flu in the United States:
    • H3N8: first noted in 2004 in racing Greyhounds in Florida; developed from the H3N8 strain that affects horses, which makes sense as many facilities intermingle racing hounds and horses
    • H3N2: first noted in March 2015 in Chicago; primarily located in the Midwest region until May 2017 when appeared in the Gulf South states; originated in southeast Asia, most likely from an avian influenza

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