-By Tara Sansing
As many of us have probably already seen via news reports, there have been recent outbreaks of the Canine Influenza Virus in some states. These reports have been leaving many pet owners with more questions rather than answers….
What is the Canine Influenza Virus? & What do these recent outbreaks mean for me and my dog(s)?
Canine Influenza (CIV) was first discovered in 2004 when a pack of greyhounds at a racetrack in Florida became very ill and several dogs died. What scientists discovered was that these dogs had been racing at horse tracks and that a strain of influenza that had been found in horses for decades had mutated and was now infecting the dogs.
CIV is an upper respiratory virus. The most common symptoms are coughing, fever, nasal discharge, lethargy and lack of appetite. The significance of a CIV infection is that it compromises the normal defense mechanisms of the canine respiratory tract so that secondary bacterial infections, including pneumonia, are common. The mortality rate for the virus and resulting infections is 8%.
How does it spread?
- Through direct contact between dogs (licking & nuzzling)
- Through the air (coughing, sneezing)
- Via contaminated surfaces (such as a shared toy or when a person picks up the virus on their hands, then pets a dog)
Any dogs that walk in the neighborhood, visit with neighbor dogs through the fence, get bathed/groomed, board, go to training classes or play at the dog park are at high risk. It is important to understand, however, that a dog does not have to come in direct contact with a dog that has the virus. CIV can live in the environment for several days and so any dogs that are in the same area later are also at risk. CIV can also be brought home by any person that has come into contact with the virus.
Dogs are contagious for 5-7 days prior to showing the first symptoms and it is for this reason that CIV has spread very quickly. Since those initial reports in 2004, there have been positive cases in 39 states. Because the virus is relatively new, dogs have no natural immunity against the virus—if unvaccinated and exposed, the chances of being infected is close to 100%
As a precaution against outbreak, we are recommending that all dogs be vaccinated for the canine influenza virus. In addition, the vaccine will be required for all boarders, day boarders and baths. Please note that much like the flu vaccine in humans, the vaccine does not guarantee that your dog will not contract the virus but the symptoms will be much less severe and the dog should recover more quickly. Any dog that has not received the vaccine in the past will need an initial vaccine followed by a booster in 2-4 weeks. The vaccine should continue to be given annually.
If you have any questions, or would like to schedule an appointment to bring your dog(s) in for the vaccine, please contact the clinic at 281-282-9944.