Northtowns Pet Blog: Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) Spreads Fast When Dogs Get Together | Pets
by Dr. Madeleine Stahl
You may have heard: dogs can get the flu, too. It’s a relatively recent development. The virus that causes flu in dogs, canine influenza virus H3N8, was only first identified in January 2004. Dog flu cases have now been reported in 39 states.
One of the factors that makes CIV such a concern for anyone who owns or works with dogs is that the virus can spread quickly and easily.1 Because most dogs have no natural immunity against CIV, virtually all dogs exposed to the virus become infected.2,3 CIV can be spread through direct dog-to-dog contact and through airborne particles released when an infected dog coughs or sneezes.
As a pet owner, you may come in contact with a dog carrying CIV without knowing it. If the virus gets on your clothes or hands, you can spread it—which can spark an outbreak.
Protect the dogs in your care by recognizing the warning signs of dog flu, taking precautions to limit the chances of spreading the virus, and vaccinate your dogs against highly infectious CIV.
Recognize the signs of dog flu
Like human flu, canine influenza causes respiratory infection and may lead to more serious conditions like pneumonia. The most common sign of dog flu is a soft, wet cough that may last for up to 3 to 4 weeks. Other signs include fever, nasal discharge, lethargy, and loss of appetite. If you notice any of these signs, encourage your client to have the dog examined by a veterinarian.
However, recognizing the signs of dog flu is not enough to prevent spreading the disease. Here are 3 reasons why:
1. Some infected dogs do not appear to be sick. About 20% of infected dogs show no signs of disease but can still spread CIV to other dogs.3
2. If you’ve spotted signs of flu, it’s probably too late. By the time a CIV-infected dog shows signs of illness, the dog is likely to have stopped spreading the virus. In other words, the damage has already been done. You may have already unintentionally spread the virus to other dogs. And remember, just because you see clinical signs of flu doesn’t mean it is flu.
3. Dog flu cannot be diagnosed by clinical signs alone.4The signs of dog flu are very similar to those of other respiratory infections, such as Bordetella. As a result, dog flu is often mistaken for other conditions.
Limit the chances of spreading CIV
The virus can remain active for up to 12 hours on your hands and up to 24 hours on your clothing.1 Make sure you wash your hands after each encounter even if the dog shows no sign of illness. Wash clothing that comes in contact with dogs, too.
Educate others about the dangers of CIV
Because of the highly contagious nature of CIV and the difficulty in controlling the spread of the virus, CIV can lead to devastating outbreaks that can strain relationships with your clients. If just 1 dog you care for is infected, every other dog in your care at that time is at risk for flu. A case of dog flu may jeopardize your business.
To protect your dogs in your care they should be vaccinated against CIV. The first CIV vaccine approved in 2009, Nobivac® Canine Flu H3N8 from Merck Animal Health, has been shown to reduce the spread of disease among dogs.5 This can help reduce the likelihood of dog flu outbreaks. As in human flu vaccination, vaccination in dogs is not 100% effective in preventing flu but can help reduce its impact.
Not only does CIV vaccination offer protection for individual dogs, it also promotes overall immunity for all dogs within a given population. This “community immunity” takes effect when a sufficient number of dogs are vaccinated to limit the spread of the virus.6
Remember, it’s important that everyone is diligent about stopping the spread of canine influenza. Visit the petsit.com Members area to watch a webinar on CIV, and go to www.doginfluenza.com to find out more about CIV and theNobivac Canine Flu H3N8 vaccine.
Laura Stauffiger is the proprietor of Laura’s Critter Care, an in your home pet sitting and dog walking service that services Erie and Niagara Counties, and ais member of Pet Sitters International and PetSitUSA. She also has her own small dog rescue group called Laura’s Critter Care Dog Rescue. For more information visit her website or send an Email.