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The Facts about the Canine Flu

The Canine flu has been receiving a lot of attention lately, and has become an increasing concern for dog owners.

The canine influenza virus is a relatively new pathogen of dogs. It was first identified in January 2004 by Dr. Cynda Crawford at the University of Florida Veterinary School. It was identified in a group racing greyhounds and it is thought that this virus is a variant of the equine influenza virus.

Since that time, cases of canine flu have been reported throughout the country. As of this writing, there have been no reported cases in Minnesota, however, there have been some in Wisconsin.

The most common clinical sign of this disease is coughing. Dogs may also have a nasal discharge, increased respiratory rates, and fevers reaching 104-106 degrees.

The incubation period from time of exposure to time of clinical illness is about 2-5 days. It is a very contagious virus, and infection rates in kennel type of situations may reach 100%. Of dogs that are exposed to this virus, about 75% will exhibit signs of illness. The mortality rate from this virus has been reported to be 1-10%. Dogs that have died from this virus generally die due to a secondary bacterial pneumonia.

It may be difficult to distinguish the canine influenza virus from other causes of "kennel cough". Currently, the best method of diagnosis is to perform blood antibody titers for the virus. Two blood tests need to be performed, one at the onset of disease, and one several weeks later to determine change in titers to confirm infection, and not just exposure to the virus.

Dogs that are infected with canine flu are treated with intravenous fluid therapy and antibiotics. Currently, there is no vaccine that can be given to prevent this virus.

At this time, we are advising owners exercise informed caution. Do not allow your dog to be around other dogs that are coughing, and ask your boarding facility if they have had any outbreaks of coughing dogs. If your dog is coughing or having nasal discharge, he or she should be seen by a veterinarian.

For more information visit U of M Veterinary School or the American Vet Med Association.

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