Dear Daisy Dog
I have been reading about a new dog influenza. What should I know about it? Is there a vaccine to protect my dog?
The new, highly contagious canine influenza virus causes a respiratory infection that initially mimics the more common “kennel cough” – but then may become much more severe.
Unfortunately, veterinarians have no quick diagnostic test to differentiate the diseases.
My macho brothers are unconcerned about the influenza virus, but I am nervous, because nearly 80 percent of dogs exposed to the virus develop clinical signs, usually within two to five days.
Most develop mild flu with a moist cough that persists for 10 to 21 days, despite treatment with antibiotics and cough suppressants.
Some run a low-grade fever and produce yellow nasal discharge. These problems respond to antibiotics, so they are likely due to a secondary bacterial infection.
Less commonly, dogs develop severe flu, characterized by pneumonia and high fever. Fortunately, antibiotics are effective, so the death rate is low.
The influenza virus is spread by respiratory secretions that get into the air and contaminate inanimate objects. Disinfectants and bleach kill the virus, so they are important in reducing disease transmission.
Infected dogs shed the virus for up to 10 days. Nearly 20 percent of infected dogs appear healthy but nevertheless spread the virus.
Because the virus was identified only recently, a vaccine has not been developed. Parainfluenza vaccine, which protects against a different virus, provides no protection against the influenza virus.
While canine influenza is very contagious to us dogs, it does not infect you humans.