The recent outbreak of canine influenza virus (CIV) in the Midwestern region of the United States has affected more than 1,000 dogs. Should you be worried?
As with all infectious and parasitic disease trends, our doctors have been closely following this issue and its possible indications for our clients and patients.
Currently, the outbreak has only affected the Chicago area and other parts of the Midwest, such as Indiana, Wisconsin and Ohio. We are not recommending the CIV vaccine for our patients at this time; however, this recommendation may change as the status of the illness develops and additional research is performed.
What is canine influenza virus (CIV)?
Canine influenza virus, also known as CIV or dog flu, is a highly contagious respiratory disease. The current outbreak is believed to be caused by the Influenza A H3N2 virus, a strain never before seen in the U.S.
While its symptoms are similar to those of a human flu virus, this disease cannot be transmitted to humans. It can potentially cause infection and respiratory illness in cats, though no feline cases have been reported.
What are the signs of CIV?
The symptoms of CIV are similar to those of the flu in humans. They include:
- Nasal discharge
- Lack of appetite
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 or contaminated objects. Keep in mind that not all contaminated objects are inanimate — while humans cannot contract the virus, they can certainly help spread it!
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. 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. At this time, it is also unknown whether the current CIV vaccine, developed to protect against a different strain of the virus (Influenza A H3N8), will be effective in preventing Influenza A H3N2.
However, there are some things you can do to help prevent the spread of disease.
- 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 other dogs, especially those showing signs of respiratory illness.
- If you plan to travel with your dog — particularly to any areas affected by the outbreak — 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. He/she can properly evaluate your pet, select an appropriate treatment plan and determine whether further diagnostic testing is needed.
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