We have been getting quite a few calls concerning Canine Influenza (also called Canine Flu). Here are some important bullet points:
- Influenza in our canine patients usually makes them pretty sick. Common symptoms include loss of appetite, coughing, runny nose and eyes, fever, and lethargy. If your pet has some matter in the eyes or a mild cough, but is eating normally and generally acting normally, it is probably not influenza. It may be something else though so don’t hesitate to call us with any questions!
- Canine influenza has not been shown to infect people.
- There have not been any documented cases of canine influenza in Minnesota at this time. There have been cases in nearby states, including Wisconsin.
- This virus spreads easily. It is present in high numbers in the nasal secretions of infected patients and the virus can live for short periods of time in those secretions when they are left on objects like food/water bowls, our clothing, etc. So, it can be spread from dog to dog, and it can be spread from exposure to contaminated objects.
- There are several strains of canine influenza, and they keep changing, a little like human influenza strains do. So there are vaccines available that provide protection against the strains within that vaccine, but like the human flu vaccines they don’t cover all of the strains that are out there. We have the most current vaccine on hand, it protects for the influenza strain H3N8 but it is unknown how well it protects against the most recently identified H3N2 strain.
- There are lab tests available that allow us to test our canine patients for both strains.
- Since influenza is a virus, recovery from infection requires that the patient’s own immune system gets rid of the virus – just like humans, our body needs to get rid of the infection. Antibiotics help avoid secondary bacterial infections, but do nothing against the virus itself. So treating our canine patients who have influenza involves doing things to keep them hydrated, keeping their fever down, keeping them eating, and treating secondary infections while their body deals with the influenza virus.
- Here are our recommendations as of this time concerning Canine Influenza:
- Our patients who are most at risk are the ones who are exposed to other dogs frequently (dog park, day care/boarding, going for a walk, etc.), and whose owners are exposed to other dogs frequently. So decreasing exposure to other dogs is an important risk reducer.
- However, common sense should be applied here – there is a difference in how aggressively we should change our pet’s quality of life due to concern over influenza now (with no known cases in MN) vs. if that situation changes and we start to see cases here in our state.
- The highest risk areas for the first cases to appear are situations where dogs are entering MN from out of state. These situations include humane shelters that receive pets from out of state, and homes that foster for those organizations, snow birds who are returning with their pets, etc. All of those situations provide an important and positive role for dogs in our society, but awareness of risk levels may help our clients make good decisions about where to exercise their pets and with whom.
- We are currently recommending the vaccine only for patients who are at high risk – service dogs, dogs that require frequent boarding or daycare, dogs whose owners work at a canine daycare center or shelter, etc. Remember that the vaccine may provide protection against only some of the strains available.
- If you have questions about canine influenza or feel your pet may be showing symptoms, please do not hesitate to contact us!! www.allpetsvetmed.com
Thanks for bringing your pets to us!
The Doctors, Technicians, and Booty – from All Pets Clinic