Warning signs of canine influenza

- What is canine influenza? It is a contagious respiratory disease in dogs caused by specific Type A influenza viruses known to infect them. There are two different influenza A dog flu viruses: H3N8 and H3N2. Canine influenza only affects dogs and humans are not at risk of contracting it.

How serious of problem is canine influenza? Not only is it highly contagious, but virtually all dogs are at risk.  Cases of H3N8 have been reported in 42 states, including Texas; and the newest strain, H3N2, has been confirmed in 30 states, also including Texas.

What are the symptoms of canine influenza? The most common one is a persistent cough, which makes it very difficult for veterinarians to diagnose initially (due to its similarity to what is commonly referred to as kennel cough). In mild cases, symptoms can include a low-grade fever, nasal discharge, lack of energy, loss of appetite, and a cough that can last for up to a month. In more severe cases, a high-grade fever and pneumonia can develop.

Is your dog at risk? Do you board your pet at a kennel or drop he or she off at a doggie daycare? Do you bring your pet to group dog training sessions? Do you take your pet to visit a grooming facility or dog parks?  Does your dog enter or attend dog events? Does your pet come into contact with other dogs in the waiting room during visits to the veterinarian?  If any of these scenarios apply to your dog, your pet may be at risk.

How is canine influenza spread? The same way as human flu -- direct contact (touching noses, sharing water bowls and toys), through the air (sneezing and coughing) and from contaminated surfaces. 

To protect your dog against canine influenza, there are vaccines against H3N8 & H3N2. The initial vaccine for each strain requires two doses, two-to-four weeks apart, followed by an annual vaccination. If your dog is currently vaccinated for kennel cough (bordetella), he or she is a likely candidate for the canine influenza vaccine.

The Houston Humane Society offers the canine influenza vaccine at its Wellness Center in addition to vaccinating all adoptable dogs upon arrival at the shelter. For more information about canine influenza, please visit the Houston Humane Society Animal Wellness Center.

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