Canine Flu: What You Need to Know about CIV

Recent headlines in the Southeast (including nearby Lafayette, LA) talk about the arrival of the Canine Influenza Virus (CIV; aka, "dog flu"). So far, the outbreak in Louisiana and nearby states (including Florida) is relatively small. However, since CIV is highly contagious and may be spread by asymptomatic carriers (that is, dogs with no outward signs of infection), it's important to know the facts.  


What is canine influenza virus (CIV)?

Canine influenza virus, also known as CIV or dog flu, is a highly contagious respiratory disease and can survive on surfaces for up to 48 hours. The current outbreak is believed to be caused by the Influenza A H3N2 virus, a strain that caused an outbreak in the midwest in 2015. While its symptoms are similar to those of a human flu virus, this disease cannot be transmitted to humans. It can also, rarely, cause infection and respiratory illness in cats. In fact, in 2016 a group of cats in a Northwest Indiana shelter tested positive for the virus. CIV outbreaks are most commonly found in situations where dogs have close contact with one another, such as shelters, kennels, dog day care facilities, and grooming or boarding facilities.

For these reasons, we require all dogs that board or groom at the hospital to be vaccinated for CIV - and we strongly recommend it for all our canine patients! The Canine Flu vaccine is a yearly vaccine, though the first time it's given, it must be boostered within 2-3 weeks for it to be effective.


What are the signs of CIV?

While human flu is seasonal, CIV can occur at any time of the year, so owners need to be vigilant. The symptoms of CIV are similar to those of the flu in humans, and they include:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite

Much like the human flu, there is a continuum of infection severity in dogs, from mild to severe. Most infected dogs are only mildly affected by the virus (and exhibit symptoms much like kennel cough); however, some will exhibit severe symptoms with high fever and pneumonia. The mortality rate for CIV is less than 10%, and deaths from the infection mainly occur in dogs that are severely affected.


How is CIV spread?

Like viral infections in humans, this illness is highly contagious and can spread easily. CIV is most commonly spread via direct nose-to-nose contact with infected dogs (especially through coughing, barking or sneezing) or contaminated objects (like toys, water bowls, kennel surfaces, etc.). Keep in mind that not all contaminated objects are inanimate. While humans cannot contract the virus, we can certainly help spread it as the virus can live on surfaces up to 48 hours, on clothing up to 24 hours and on hands up to 12 hours!

Unfortunately for owners trying to restrict contact between infected and uninfected dogs, not all dogs that contract CIV will actually become sick, though they can still shed the virus, passing it on to other dogs. About 20% of infected dogs may be asymptomatic carriers of the infection. Moreover, dogs are most contagious during the 2-4 day incubation period right after becoming infected but before showing symptoms. Therefore, unless your dog never comes in contact with other dogs (or any place or person who has contact with other dogs), it's best to make sure your pet is vaccinated against CIV.


How is CIV treated?

Like the human flu, treatment consists mostly of supportive care, such as medication or IV fluids, while the virus runs its course. Most dogs recover from infection within 2-3 weeks. For severe infections, hospitalization may be needed.


Can CIV be prevented?

Because this particular strain of CIV is caused by a virus that is new to the canine population, dogs lack preexisting immunity to the illness. Therefore, vaccination against this virus is recommended. (We at MSAH vaccinate against the H3N2 strain of the virus that has been implicated in recent outbreaks.)

However, there are some other things you can do to help prevent the spread of disease, as well.

  • Surfaces and items such as food and water bowls, bedding and toys should be cleaned or disinfected after any exposure to dogs showing signs of respiratory illness. This can also help prevent the spread of other contagious diseases, such as kennel cough.
  • Limit direct contact with unvaccinated dogs, especially those showing signs of respiratory illness.
  • If you plan to travel with your dog, steer clear of dog parks, grooming salons and boarding facilities and discuss vaccination with your veterinarian.
  • Always wash your hands before and after touching other animals.


What should I do if my dog is showing symptoms of CIV?

If your dog is displaying any of the signs listed above, please schedule an exam with your veterinarian. S/he can properly evaluate your pet, select an appropriate treatment plan and determine whether further diagnostic testing is needed.

For more information about CIV, please visit Canine Influenza FAQ (AVMA) or call us!



This blog post originally appeared on The Drake Center and has been modified for syndication.

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