Canine Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness in dogs that is spreading in the United States. There are now two strains identified. The H3N8 strain was first reported in Florida in 2004 and by 2008 had spread to at least 40 states. H3N2 is a newer strain that was first discovered in Korea in 2007. In March 2015 there was an outbreak of H3N8 Canine Influenza in Chicago and has since been reported in 25 states, including California.
Symptoms can include coughing, sneezing, lethargy, low fever and poor appetite. Runny eyes and nose are also common. In more severe cases dogs can develop a high fever, pneumonia, and breathing difficulties. Most dogs recover 2 to 3 weeks after the start of symptoms. Fatal cases of canine flu have been reported but are very rare.
Canine flu, like the human flu, is spread through coughing and sneezing, direct contact with an infected dog, and contaminated surfaces such as toys or clothing, hands, and food and water dishes. Dogs who visit boarding kennels, dog parks, groomers, or other places where dogs are brought together are at higher risk of catching canine influenza.
Treatment consists mainly of supportive care depending on the severity of the symptoms. Antibiotics may be needed to treat secondary infections. If a dog has a more serious case, additional treatment and veterinary support would be needed.
There are now two vaccines available for dogs at risk of catching canine influenza. Both the H3N8 vaccine and the H3N2 vaccine can be given to dogs eight weeks or older. The first two doses are given 2 to 4 weeks apart with a booster once a year. Because of the lengthy duration of the illness and potential for secondary infections, prevention with vaccines is recommended for dogs likely to be exposed.