Both Canada and the US have a growing number of confirmed cases of Canine Influenza Virus (CIV). As of February 20th, 34 states had at least one confirmed case of CIV. Northern California and Nevada have seen a rapid increase in the number of confirmed cases from 53 in mid-January to 494 in mid-February. The flu is expanding to the north, east, and south with cases identified in Oregon, eastern California and southern Nevada.
Unfortunately, the situation is not improving in Ontario either. In early January, there were two confirmed clusters of CIV in Windsor affecting a small number of dogs. A third cluster was identified last week in central Ontario with 20 confirmed cases and many more suspected.
It is hard to tell exactly how many cases of CIV there are, as many dogs showing “flu symptoms” are not tested for the virus. Therefore many cases are not reported, so the actual number of cases is likely much higher than the number of confirmed cases reported above.
What is Canine Influenza Virus?
Canine Influenza Virus is a highly contagious virus, much like the human influenza virus. Two strains (H3N2 and H3N8) affect dogs. Currently, the CIV strain that is of concern is the H3N2 virus. Prior to 2015, H3N2 was only seen in Asia, but was reported in Chicago in 2015. Since then several outbreaks have been reported throughout the US. 2018 marks the first confirmed outbreak in Canada.
The signs of CIV are similar to those of the flu in humans, and include cough, runny nose, fever, lethargy, eye discharge, and reduced appetite.
Why the concern?
When a virus enters a population that has no immunity from previous infections or from vaccination, the virus can spread quickly. This is the case with CIV.
The virus is typically not fatal for healthy dogs. However, for dogs with existing health problems, older and younger dogs, and brachycephalic breeds (dogs with short noses and flat faces, such as Pugs, French Bulldogs, Lhasa Apsos, and Shih Tzus), complications can occur, including more serious infections, such as pneumonia.
What to do if you live in an area where CIV has been confirmed.
- If your dog is sick, keep him away from other dogs.
- Contact your veterinarian if your dog is showing signs of the virus and let the clinic know that you suspect CIV. If your dog needs to be seen by your veterinarian, the health care team will need to take precautions in order to prevent the spread of the virus to other dogs in the clinic.
- Treatment may include cough suppressants. Antibiotics are not used to treat the virus, but may be needed if a secondary infection, such as pneumonia, develops. Your veterinarian will determine what course of action needs to be taken if your dog does have CIV.
- If you are out with your dog and see a sick dog, stay away from it.
- Because the virus can live on surfaces, such has your body and clothing, be sure to thoroughly wash your hands and change your clothes if you have been in contact with a sick dog.
- If your dog is sick and has been in contact with other dogs (e.g., at puppy and obedience classes, doggy daycare, boarding kennels, dog shows, or any other events), contact the owner/operator.
- If your dog has signs of CIV or was diagnosed with CIV, it is very important to keep him away from other dogs for 4 weeks – even if your dog appears to have recovered after only 2 or 3 weeks.
To vaccinate or not?
There are approved CIV vaccines in the United States and Canada. Vaccination is not a guarantee that your dog will not become seriously ill, but it does reduce the likelihood, and severity of illness. Two doses are required about 2-4 weeks apart. Your veterinarian will help you determine if your dog should be vaccinated.
Vaccination should be considered:
- When travelling to areas where the virus has been reported as a concern.
- If your dog is in contact with dogs imported from Asia, or imported or travelling from affected areas in the US or Canada.
- If your dog will be in contact with dogs from other geographical areas (e.g., show dogs).
- If your dog is in contact with a lot of other dogs (e.g., at puppy and obedience classes, doggy daycare, boarding kennels, and dog shows).
- If your dog is in a high-risk group (e.g., is brachycephalic, elderly, very young, or has underlying heart or lung disease).
- Dogs in breeding kennels.
Don’t panic if the virus is in your area, but be aware and know the signs.