Tell me about… Canine Influenza Virus

Tell me about… Canine Influenza Virus

By Dr. Bob Parrish on Jul 31, 2018

If you tune into news about pets, you may have heard about the recent outbreak of the Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) in New York City. As of late May, there had been more than 35 confirmed cases in Brooklyn. For some of you, this may be the first time you’ve heard of Canine/Dog Flu. For many others, you’ve heard this story before as we have experienced many outbreaks in the U.S. (even in North Carolina) over the past few years of this potentially life-threatening disease.

There are 2 active forms of the Canine Flu virus: H3N2 and H3N8
– The H3N8 virus was discovered nearly 15 years ago in Florida. Dogs infected with this virus can shed/spread the virus for 5 days. 
– The H3N2 virus arrived in the U.S. in 2015 and dogs infected with this virus can shed/spread it for more than 3 weeks

While there is much information available about Canine Flu ( is one good resource), perhaps the most crucial information is knowing that the dogs most at risk of getting Canine Flu (CIV) are those dogs that are “social”.  Dogs that are boarded or go to doggy daycare, dogs interacting with one another at dog parks, and dogs that are groomed are most likely to be exposed. 

It’s also important to know that virtually every dog that is exposed to the viruses will become infected, even if vaccinated.  Fortunately, there is a Canine Flu vaccine that we can give that protects against both the H3N2 and H3N8 viruses (we call it a “bivalent” vaccine).  The vaccine is proven to significantly reduce the severity of the flu symptoms and the length of time the pet is sick. Many boarding facilities/kennels are now requiring that their customers’ dogs be vaccinated against the flu, which protects both your pet and other pets at these facilities. 

>>>If your dog has not been vaccinated against these 2 strains of flu, we give an initial vaccine, then a booster must be given 2 to 4 weeks later. 
The booster is then good for 1 year. 

>>>If your dog has been vaccinated against only the H3N8 (we had a vaccine for only this virus until late 2016, when the bivalent vaccine came out), it would also need to receive 2 vaccines given 2 to 4 weeks apart, then a booster once a year to ensure complete protection. 

While direct contact with a dog carrying one of the viruses is the most potent means of contamination, it can also be spread through the air. An infected dog that coughs or sneezes can spread the virus up to 20 feet away!  Contaminated objects such as food bowls and water bowls and toys can be a source of infection as well.  Even people can transmit the viruses from an infected dog to an unprotected dog.

The common symptoms of Canine Flu include coughing, a thick discharge from the nose or eyes, fever, loss of appetite, and sluggishness/lethargy. Severe cases can develop into life-threatening pneumonia. But understand that there are several different ‘bugs’ that can cause respiratory infections in dogs and Canine Flu is just one of them. The fact that Canine Flu is so highly contagious for several days, and the fact that it can be fatal, makes it a very serious concern for veterinarians AND for pet owners, boarding facilities, groomers, etc.

It is very uncommon for cats to get the Canine Flu, but it is possible for them to get the H3N2 virus. However, the vaccine is only labelled to be given to dogs.  

There has been no evidence of people getting the Canine Flu from dogs or cats.

If you have concerns that your dog is at risk, Carolina Value Pet Care definitely encourage getting the Flu Vaccine… for your pet’s protection and for your own peace of mind.                         

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