canine influenza virusCanine Influenza Virus or CIV is a highly contagious infection of dogs. 
As with human flu, it is easily transmitted by direct contact, aerosolization of respiratory secretions like sneezing, coughing and nasal discharge.  Dogs that are boarded, go to groomers, doggy day care and dog parks are at an increased rate of susceptibility to the infection.  The virus can remain alive and able to be transmitted on surfaces for up to 48 hours, clothing 24 hours and hands/skin for up to 12 hours.  Thorough cleaning of cages, bowls and other surfaces should be routinely practiced especially in restricted spaces such as kennels, shelters, and doggy day care centers.  When visiting these facilities you, as well as the employees, should wash hands before and after handling dogs.

Symptoms of canine influenza virus are very similar to that of kennel cough, coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, and fever.  just like you your dog just feels crummy. Therefore a visit your veterinarian as soon as symptoms occur is important.  There are two strains of the virus H3N2 and H3N8 and unlike our flu it is not seasonal. These viruses are treated with antibiotics and sometimes cough suppressants. It can take 2 – 3 weeks for complete recovery.  If not treated CIV can develop into pneumonia and your dog may need hospitalization.  Dogs with preexisting conditions like heart or respiratory conditions and older dogs are more susceptible.

Dogs that are at risk should be vaccinated for canine influenza vaccine.  The vaccine is a series of two vaccines, the first provides about three weeks of immunity, and therefore a second dose is needs to be administered three weeks later and then yearly.  The full immunity of the CIV vaccine is approximately one week following the second dose.  The available vaccine, for the H3N8 strain, the most prevalent in our area, aids in the control of the CIV infection.  It may not prevent the infection all together but has been shown to significantly reduce the severity and duration.  The vaccine also reduces the amount of virus shed and shortens the shedding period.

If your dog frequently visits the dog park, groomer, kennel or doggie day care it is extremely important to keep up to date on canine influenza vaccine as well as all vaccinations.  Remember a little sneeze or cough every now and then may not be a symptom of anything, but if it becomes excessive it is time to visit your veterinarian.

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