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Canine influenza, or the dog flu, has been circulating throughout the United States for the last 10 years and now has been identified in Ohio. There are 2 distinct canine influenza viruses, H3N8 and the more recent H3N2. Despite its name, it has been shown to infect other species such as cats, ferrets and guinea pigs. Cats have recently been infected with the avian influenza, or bird flu H7N2. This influenza is not classified as the dog flu, but many different influenza A strains can potentially infect companion animals.

The dog flu is most likely to infect large groups of animals during the winter months. However, the recent H3N2 outbreak in the US began in late winter and has continued through the summer. As a result, the flu may be an issue any time of the year. The influenza virus typically circulates in shelters and boarding facilities, after the introduction of an infected animal.

The onset of clinical signs is rapid, and usually occurs in the first few days. Many patients display few, if any, clinical signs, or may display mild symptoms. Dogs infected with the influenza virus may have a fever, which often decreases or goes away entirely after the first few days. Dogs may be lethargic, and not wanting to eat. Some have runny noses, sneeze excessively and/or cough. In some instances, a severe cough may result if the dog develops bacterial pneumonia after the flu. In more severely infected dogs some difficult breathing may be observed and in rare circumstances, respiratory distress.

The influenza virus can be spread from animal to animal via nose to nose contact, or breathing in aerosolized droplets from an infected dog, handling an infected patient or petting an infected dog. If at all possible, dogs that are exhibiting signs should be isolated from other animals to minimize the spread of the flu.

Most dogs recover within 7-14 days, a small percentage may experience severe respiratory distress that could lead to death if not treated. Infected dogs can shed the virus in respiratory secretions anywhere from 10 to more than 20 days. As a result, even if the dog appears to have recovered it can still infect other dogs, cats or other animals.

We advise vaccinating your dog with the Influenza vaccine as a preventative measure. Most boarding facilities, daycares, and groomers are now requiring this vaccine. The vaccine is a series of 2 injections- 3 weeks apart. Please ask us about the Canine Influenza Vaccine.