Canine Influenza is a highly contagious infection that can be caused from 2 different strains, H3N8 and H3N2. H3N8 is the strain that was responsible for the outbreak 10 years ago. The outbreak in Chicago last spring was caused by H3N2. It takes 2-4 days before dogs start showing symptoms and this is when they are most highly contagious, allowing them to spread the disease unknowingly.
Symptoms of Canine Influenza come in two forms, the mild form and the severe form. Most dogs develop the mild form and although Canine Influenza is highly infectious, it has a fairly low fatality rate (less than 10%).
Mild form infections have a soft moist cough that can last for up to 30 days. They can become lethargic, have a low grade fever, decreased appetite, sneezing, and discharge from the eyes. They can get secondary bacterial infections and develop thick nasal discharge. Sometimes the cough is very similar to the dry cough of “Kennel Cough.” The severe form infections are associated with high fevers (104-106 degrees) and develop pneumonia and difficulty breathing. The pneumonia may be due to a secondary bacterial infection.
Treatment for Influenza is mostly supportive and can range from just monitoring at home to hospitalization for IV therapy depending on the severity of the illness. The canine influenza virus is not transmissible to humans and there have been no reports in cats. The dogs that are most at risk are ones that are in close proximity to other dogs such as boarding facilities.
There have only been 2 reported cases in Idaho recently. If your dog is coughing it is most likely not Canine Influenza, but your pet should be seen to be evaluated for other respiratory diseases.
At this time we are not recommending vaccinating for Canine Influenza for the general population; however if you have a high risk pet (traveling or being exposed to a large amount of dogs such as at a dog show that have been traveling) please let us know and we can discuss whether or not vaccination should be considered.
We will continue to monitor the situation and keep you updated on changes.