Canine Influenza Virus: What You Should Know

As the heat dips down and walks in the park become a pleasant way to enjoy an evening, dog owners may spend extra time walking their dogs and giving them more opportunities to socialize with other dogs in the neighborhood. And as the holidays approach and planning for vacation and visits becomes a priority, dog owners may begin considering which facility provides the best place and community to house their dogs during time away from home. These activities and considerations raise certain questions about the health risks dogs face as their level of social contact with other dogs increases: What types of illnesses can a dog be exposed to? How can dog owners prevent their dogs from getting sick? What health issues should owners consider when selecting where to board their dogs during their travels? These questions are important and dog owners are right to have them. Although contact with other dogs is a necessary and beneficial part of a dog’s life, there are risks dogs face when socializing with other dogs. To help raise awareness of the risks and alleviate any worries they produce, this article will focus on a serious, yet preventable risk you and your dog face during times of increased contact with other dogs: Canine Influenza Virus. 

Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) is a highly contagious respiratory infection which causes persistent coughing, green or yellow nasal discharge, and low-grade fever, and, in some cases, facilitates the development of the more serious illness, pneumonia. First observed in 2004 in greyhounds at racing tracks, CIV has spread across 30 states and the nation’s capital. It can be transmitted through direct contact with infected dogs or virus-contaminated clothing and hands as well as through airborne carriers generated from coughing and sneezing (yet it is not communicable to humans). Despite its presence across the country and its high risk for contraction, CIV can be prevented and contained through awareness and vaccination. 

As with the seasonal flu virus among humans, the key method of protecting your dog from contracting the infection is vaccination. In 2009, the USDA approved the first CIV vaccine, H3N8. This vaccine introduces an inactivated virus into a dog’s body in order to increase the dog’s immunity to the virus. Although the vaccine may not always prevent infection, it does lessen the effects of symptoms, decrease the duration of illness, and reduce the possibility of spreading the virus to other dogs. In short, it is the best method to protect your dog and other dogs from Canine Influenza Virus. 

All dog owners, especially those owners whose dogs are in frequent contact with other dogs, should get their dogs vaccinated against CIV. If you are a new pet owner or you and your dog are new to the area, we offer the vaccination, as well as other veterinary services, at CityPets (please contact us for more information). Otherwise, contact your veterinarian for more advice concerning the CIV vaccine and how you can protect your dog throughout the year. And always remember that awareness and preventative measures are the best ways to keep your pets safe, healthy, and happy!

Thank you, 
Jill Shook, DVM, and Mike Lang, Associate Writer 
CityPets Veterinary Care and Wellness