You may have heard that the Canine Influenza Virus has recently spread in the Washington DC metro area. The health and well-being of our four-legged clients is always our top concern, so we wanted to share the information we’ve learned. A big thanks to Art Prediger and Taylor James, owners of Dogtopia of Dulles, as well as Amber Sutton, owner of Dogtopia of Woobridge.
What is it?
Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) is a highly contagious respiratory infection in dogs caused by the influenza A subtype H3N8 virus. For all practical purposes, Canine Influenza is a viral variation of kennel cough for which your dog’s Bordetella vaccination offers no defense. Current canine approved antibiotics are also ineffective in treating Canine Influenza; however, this influenza is often accompanied by a secondary bacterial infection for which antibiotics are effective.
Note: CIV is not a20human influenza virus. CIV is an adaptation of the Equine Influenza Virus (EIV) which has been in existence for over 40 years. Over time, EIV adapted to canine tissue (first discovered in 2004 in Greyhound populations in FL) and is now passed from dog-to-dog.
Where/How can my dog get it?
Now that CIV is in the DC metro area, your dog is at risk anywhere there are other dogs and/or people who have handled other dogs: pet stores, dog shows, veterinary clinics, daycare and boarding facilities, dog parks, meet-and-greets on your neighborhood walk, etc. The virus is transmitted via oronasal contact with infected dogs, surfaces contaminated with the virus, and inhalation of aerosols generated by canine coughing and sneezing. CIV can live on a hard surface for up to 48 hours. CIV can be carried on human skin, clothing, and hair for up to 24 hours, and, as a result, be transmitted to your dog via human contact should that human have been in contact with an infected dog without proper sanitization of themselves.
What are the symptoms?
Research and findings offered by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reveal that all dogs exposed to the virus are infected; however, only 80% of the exposed population will have clinical symptoms: the remaining 20% of the population will show no clinical symptoms. Research has also identified that the originating infectious dogs in a population usually get a more severe case of the influenza, where as the secondary dogs exhibit symptoms of a much milder form of the virus. For the 80% of the population exhibiting symptoms, those symptoms are: cough, runny nose, and sometimes a fever — almost identical symptoms to many other canine infections. Many dogs also develop a more severe case of the influenza that can advance to pneumonia rapidly. To date, there is an average 5% mortality rate. Dogs can exhibit symptoms for up to 30 days post exposure.
How is it diagnosed?
Proper diagnosis is tricky because of the short incubation and contagious periods for this virus. Once exposed, the incubation period is 2 to 4 days. Your dog will be contagious to other dogs from the point of exposure through 7 to 10 days post exposure. By the time your dog exhibits vet-worthy symptoms, your dog is nearing the end of the virus’s life-cycle/contagious stage and, as a result, your vet’s exam/tests will not detect the presence of Canine Influenza. The best time to perform a nasal swab is during the incubation period and, thus, pre-symptom. There are only 3 veterinary labs in the US that are currently able to identify and verify CIV: (1) Cornell University, (2) Oklahoma State University, and (3) University of Florida. You should validate that your vet has sent your dog’s sample to one of them. Should testing during the contagious period be missed, your vet can take a blood sample from your dog 2 to 3 weeks from probable exposure and send that sampl e to one of the 3 labs noted above. These labs will be able to validate that your dog has developed antibodies against CIV and, as a result, you and your vet will then know that your dog had CIV.
How is it treated?
For most dogs, CIV just needs to run its course: usually 7 to 10 days. Some dogs will continue to be symptomatic, though not contagious, for up to 30 days. Should your dog develop a high fever, nasal discharge, and/or optical discharge, there may be a secondary bacterial infection that your dog is also fighting. Your vet will be able to diagnose the infection and prescribe the appropriate treatment. The CDC recommends that your dog be isolated from contact with other dogs for up to 14 days post exposure. Should you be exposed to a dog with suspected CIV, keep yourself clean. Soap and water will kill the virus as well as any disinfectant cleaner. Change/wash your exposed clothing if possible, or spray yourself down with a disinfectant.
How can it be prevented?
The best way to prevent your dog from getting this virus is to live in a bubble. Outside of that, if your dog engages in social activities with other dogs, s/he is at risk. When at the dog park and/or out on a neighborhood walk, you should keep your distance from any dogs that are coughing/excessively-sneezing. There is new CIV vaccination that hit the market in July 2009. There is no data to date as to th e effectiveness of the vaccine. This vaccine just became available to local veterinary offices in mass quantity yesterday, Tuesday, August 18th. The initial vaccine is given via injection in 2 doses, each 3 weeks apart, and then requires an annual booster.
Can my dog get it again?
To date, CIV has not mutated. As a result, once your dog is exposed to CIV and his/her body develops antibodies against it, your dog is not at risk to get CIV again. The only way to determine if your dog has developed antibodies against CIV is to have your vet perform a titer test 2 to 3 weeks after probable exposure. Should your dog have developed antibodies against CIV, your dog is protected and the CIV vaccine will not provide your dog with any additional protection.
Where can I learn more information about CIV?