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7 things you should know about canine influenza

In Chicago, over 1,000 dogs have been recently infected with the canine influenza virus and five had died within a short amount of time.  Multiple pet stores have closed as a result of the widely spreading infection and pet parents are understandably on high alert.  With the recent outbreak of the contagious virus it is imperative that pet owners remain educated about the facts associated with the disease so here are seven things you should know about canine influenza!

  • There is no evidence that it is zoonotic meaning it cannot be transmitted from animal to humans and vice versa.  With that said it is a virus and can survive outside of its host for some time therefore humans should be vigilant about washing hands before petting or playing with their dogs if they have come into contact with other pets.

  • The vaccine can take up to a month to take effect, per the Cook County Animal Care and Control.  Once your dog has been vaccinated you may still want to keep them away from any other dogs until the vaccine has had a chance to take full effect.  First time vaccinations will require a booster within two to three weeks then annually.

  • Although it cannot make humans sick, the virus was actually thought to have mutated and jumped species from horses to dogs, with the first canine case noted in 2004.

  • Transmission is airborne and can also be acquired through a dog coming into contact with bowls, bedding or other objects that may have been contaminated with the virus.  Therefore refraining from kennels, unnecessary boarding and doggy day cares may be a wise decision until vaccinations have been given and had time to take effect.

  • Although the flu in humans causes vomiting and in some cases diarrhea, the canine flu mainly affects the respiratory system and the symptoms are usually coughing, lethargy, nasal discharge, fever and in severe cases it can progress to pneumonia.

  • Since it is a virus, there is no magic pill for treatment.  Treatment consists mainly of supportive care but antibiotics may be given for any secondary infections.

  • Canine influenza is not the same as kennel cough, but there are test that can detect both.  If your dog begins to cough and shows other symptoms of canine influenza getting them to the vet quickly is critical, but as always prevention is best!

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