Canine Influenza Virus, also called dog flu, is a highly contagious respiratory infection in dogs caused by the Influenza A virus H3N8 and H3N2. The virus, first reported in the United States in 2004, has become an important emerging disease with thousands of confirmed cases across the country since 2015. Canine Influenza occurs year-round and approximately 80% of dogs exposed to the virus will develop flu-like symptoms. As of July 31st, there have been eight confirmed cases of Canine Influenza in Minnesota; positive cases have been reported in Crow Wing, Kandiyohi, Ramsey, Sherburne, and Wright counties. Canine Influenza is not contagious to people.

Who is at risk

Because Canine Influenza is a new disease in the United States, almost all dogs, regardless of breed or age, lack immunity and are susceptible to infection. Dogs at highest risk are those in contact with other dogs, such as at dog parks, boarding or day care facilities, puppy classes, grooming salons, dog sport events, and camp grounds. Additionally, puppies, elderly or pregnant dogs, and dogs that are immunocompromised are at higher risk of developing complications secondary to Canine Influenza.

Symptoms and testing

The majority of dogs infected with the influenza virus suffer a mild form of the disease with symptoms including moist cough, lethargy, fever, nasal and ocular discharge, and sneezing.  Secondary bacterial infections can develop and lead to more severe illness and pneumonia. It is important to note that these symptoms often occur with other respiratory infections including kennel cough; not all coughing dogs have influenza. If you note these symptoms in your dog we recommend scheduling an appointment.

The diagnosis of Canine Influenza is made based on physical examination and nasal swabs. Depending on the severity of clinical signs, x-rays of the chest may be indicated for some patients.

Vaccination and prevention

The best prevention for Canine Influenza is minimizing your dog’s contact with large groups of other dogs, especially when respiratory illness is suspected. When that is not possible, vaccination for Canine Influenza Virus H3N8 and H3N2 is recommended. The vaccination is a series of two vaccines given 2-4 weeks apart and takes full effect 2 weeks after final vaccination.

If you have questions about Canine Influenza and whether your dog falls into a ‘high risk’ group, please call and our team would be happy to talk with you.

507-645-4522 - Countryside Animal Hospital

Additional resources

·         Minnesota Board of Animal Health: Updates on locations of Canine Influenza in Minnesota

·         Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

·         Merck Animal Health: Canine Flu vaccine