Canine Influenza Disease

posted: by: Sara Grogman, DVM Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

As many of you may have already heard, there has been an increase in the number of respiratory infections in dogs in the Chicago area.  This outbreak has spread very quickly and many Chicago clinics are working to identify the infectious agent responsible.  At this time, there have been several confirmed cases of Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) as well as cases of kennel cough.  Many tests are still pending.


Canine Influenza Virus is a new disease that was first documented in 2004. 

It is an H3N8 influenza virus that is spread between dogs.  It is not a human influenza virus.  There have been no cases of human infection caused by canine influenza. Symptoms include runny nose, cough, fever, and inappetance.  A small percentage of dogs can develop more serious issues like pneumonia. 


Testing to confirm canine influenza virus infection is available. The tests can be performed using respiratory secretions collected at the time of disease onset or using two blood samples; the first collected while the animal is sick and the second 2 to 3 weeks later.

CIV cannot be easily distinguished from other causes of respiratory infection based on clinical signs alone.  It is often mistaken for kennel cough.  The term kennel cough loosely describes a mix of infections that are both viral and bacterial (Bordetella). It is also known as Infectious Tracheobronchitis (ITB). These infections cause the upper airways to become inflamed. The main symptom of kennel cough is a dry, hacking cough, which can cause dogs to bring up white phlegm. The cough can worsen after exercise or excitement. Most times there are no other symptoms present, but some dogs may have a fever and nasal discharge.


Even a dog vaccinated for Bordetella can still get kennel cough. Bordetella is just one bacteria that can cause kennel cough. There are many other bacteria and viruses that can cause kennel cough or ITB.  There is no vaccine that completely protects your dog against the disease.  The vaccine will help lessen the intensity of illness.


Canine influenza virus and Bordetella can be spread to other dogs by direct contact with aerosolized respiratory secretions from infected dogs, by uninfected dogs coming into contact with contaminated objects, and by moving contaminated objects or materials between infected and uninfected dogs.  Although canine respiratory infectious diseases are very contagious, not every dog exposed will contract the infection.  Illness will vary as well from mild cough to lethargy and anorexia and possible pneumonia.  To strike a comparison, when we humans come into contact with a person that has a common cold or influenza, these infections can spread very easily however not everyone who has been exposed will get sick.   Many other factors come into play for example one person may have a stronger immune system than another.  This is also true of our canine friends.


Treatment for CIV or other canine respiratory infectious disease consists of supportive care.  Antibiotics are sometimes used for secondary infections.  Dogs with pneumonia usually require more intensive treatments in a veterinary hospital.


We have had two dogs present to Glencoe Animal Hospital for cough.  We are unsure at this time if this is related to the outbreak of respiratory disease that is in the city.  Because of this, it is our recommendation to owners that they limit or eliminate social activities at this time to decrease exposure.  Also, dog owners whose dogs are coughing or showing other signs of respiratory disease should not expose other dogs to the virus. Clothing, toys, surfaces, and hands should be cleaned and disinfected after exposure to dogs showing signs of respiratory disease.


There is a Canine Influenza vaccine available.  It contains inactivated virus so the vaccine itself will not cause respiratory infection.  It is a series of two shots given three weeks apart.   The vaccine reports to significantly reduce the clinical signs, severity, and spread of canine influenza infection.  If you have a dog that is social or will be boarding in the coming weeks, please consider scheduling an appointment to get the CIV vaccine.   If you do not vaccinate your dog for Bordetella, please consider doing it at this time. 


No vaccine will provide absolute protection.  Limiting social activity is the best advice at this time.