Are you considering travelling this summer with your furry friend? A relatively new (within Canada) and emerging virus may be something you want to consider before heading out. The Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) has two concerning strains. H3N8 was first discovered in 2005 in Florida and is thought to have jumped from horses to dogs. This particular strain has been found a few times in Canada but cases are limited and current risk is low. However, another strain, H3N2, was first detected in 2015 and is thought to have jumped from birds to dogs in South Korea ultimately a variation of the avian flu. Importation of dogs to the US allowed the virus to travel and currently, we see outbreaks of this strain in Southern Ontario. Up until now, we have seen outbreaks of the H3N2 virus in Windsor, Muskoka, Niagara and Northumberland Country. This virus is very contagious, and many dogs have the potential to become infected in a short period.
Transmission of CIV is similar to human influenza. Direct contact with infected animals, short distance airborne transmission and less likely (but possible) indirect transmission by way of infected items is possible. It would include the virus travelling on the clothes of owners. Infected dogs are contagious to other dogs approximately 24 hours BEFORE they start to show any clinical signs. Dogs can continue to shed the virus for 24 days. For the most part, clinical symptoms are mild and will go away in 2-3 weeks with supportive care. Roughly 1 in 10 dogs will require more intensive care as pneumonia can develop and deaths have occurred.
Dogs of any age, size, bred or sex can be affected. Young dogs, old dogs and brachycephalic breeds are at the most risk. Coughing, sneezing, discharge from the nose and/or eyes, decreased appetite and sometimes fever is the most common clinical signs. Not all dogs will show symptoms, however. Dogs can be perfectly happy and, yet they can transmit the virus. These particular dogs are called “carriers.” This virus can not be transmitted to humans however the H3N2 virus can potentially affect cats and ferrets.
Diagnosis is made through the use of nasal swabs sent to the lab for PCR testing. This test is best performed early in the course of disease for optimal results. Testing at the lab is the only way to confirm your dog has influenza.
There is no direct treatment for CIV. Often providing good quality food, lots of water, plenty of rest along and potentially utilizing a cough suppressant is enough. Only patients that have advanced disease or develop a subsequent bacterial infection require stronger medications such as antibiotics.
A vaccine is available against both the H3N8 and the H3N2 virus. It requires the dog to have doses of the vaccines 2-4 weeks apart. Protection is considered adequate two weeks after the second injection. The Airdrie Animal Health Centre does carry this vaccine. If you travel with your dog to Southern Ontario or the USA, this may be a vaccine you should consider. We would be happy to discuss this vaccine with you at any time. At present, this virus has not been detected in Alberta.