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Canine flu treatment, prevention   

The Western Carolina summer has arrived, compelling us to pack up our pups and head out looking for adventure. But now, surrounding Asheville like a creeping tide, Canine flu virus (CIV) threatens your summer plans. Happily,  your local family veterinarian can help keep your furry friends safe and maximize your summer fun.

Canine flu virus is highly contagious and difficult to manage. There are two strains of CIV circulating in the United States, although the current outbreak involves only one (H3N2). That is the same one which caused a similar epidemic in 2015. Due to the historical rarity of CIV and the low rate of vaccination, the vast majority of dogs in the United States are extremely susceptible to infection. Dogs become most contagious following exposure to the virus but prior to the onset of clinical signs, which can take as long as 8 days to appear following exposure.

As many as 20% of dogs that become infected with canine flue may show no clinical sign of infection at all, yet still carry and shed the virus. CIV persists in the environment for up to 48 hours and infection may be spread on objects (e.g. collars, bowls, leashes, clothes) or on the hands of people.  Places where animals are held in close proximity, such as grooming, boarding, day-care, or shelter facilities are considered high risk.Symptoms can take 8 days to appear. Click To Tweet

Most dogs that become infected show mild signs of disease, but some can become severely ill or even die. Signs of canine flu infection include coughing, sneezing, lethargy, decreased appetite, fever, and nasal discharge. Dogs with more complicated infections, involving pneumonia, difficulty breathing, or high grade fever (>104°F) may require intensive hospitalization. Signs can persist for 10-21 days and secondary bacterial infections, which can prolong illness, are common.

Protecting your pup from infection involves vaccination, prevention of exposure to infected animals, and hygiene. A safe and highly effective vaccine for both known strains of CIV is available from and recommended by most veterinarians. Because more than one vaccine booster may be required for your pet, potentially delaying full protection by several weeks, be sure to contact your veterinarian about vaccination as soon as possible.

Try to avoid high risk situations where infected dogs may be present or where animals are held together in tight quarters. Also, be sure to ask your groomer, day-care provider, or boarding facility about their vaccination policy well in advance of any appointment to ensure that you have met all of their potential requirements. Be sure to wash your hands and remove any clothes or objects that may have potentially come into contact with any infected or status unknown animal prior to contact with your own pet.

Most importantly, remember that your local family veterinarian is the best and most reliable resource regarding your dog’s health. He or she is waiting for your call now!

Joshua Cook MS, DVM is a small animal veterinarian at All Pets Animal Hospital and Rehabilitation Center in Asheville.


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