I’m sure most everyone has seen the Chicago outbreak of Canine Influenza so I thought it might be a good time to go over the symptoms and some facts about the Type A H3N8 virus.
Most cases (80%) in the general population, (meaning to included the young, senior and immune deficient as well as otherwise healthy adults) if exposed to the flu will get mild cases. Mild cases are considered to have symptoms such as coughing (wet or dry), sneezing and nasal discharge that is not clear, with or without a low grade fever. These symptoms usually resolve themselves after 10- 30 days with supportive care such as making sure the dog is well hydrated and giving meds that can make the dog more comfortable. But of course, a trip to the vet is in order because the virus can produce secondary bacterial infections which require antibiotics.
Severe cases are those displaying high fevers (over 104° F) with a cough and/or sneezing, and can move very quickly to a possible hemorrhagic pneumonia or bacterial pneumonia, of which both are life threatening. The most at risk are similar to humans, being the very young, senior and immune deficient dogs.
There is a vaccine so it’s a good thing to discuss with your vet if you are in an area at risk.
It is highly contagious, spread by airborne respiratory secretions like a cough or sneeze and direct contact, using contaminated bowls, toys, kennels, etc. One should also be aware that a person can bring the infection into the home by handling an asymptomatic dog (symptoms can take up to a week to present themselves), then wiping their hands on their clothing and later petting their own dog. The same can be said of handling toys, bowls and beds. The virus transfers very easily.
Having said all that, there is no need for over concern. The wise choice is to speak with your vet and see if they are seeing any cases. It may not be in your area. If you are in an area that is at risk, and we know the world is getting smaller all the time as we take our doggy kids to shows and events, think about getting the vaccine. Perhaps even if your dog does not travel, if he is social, a vaccination might be in order under those circumstances also.
As with anything else balance is the key. Make smart choices about where you take your dog for the time being, be aware of the situation without dwelling on it or you will become one of those people who use their shirttail to cover the doorknob before opening the door, which I always find a little disturbing.
We all want to keep our companions safe and healthy, but we also do not need to let our fears determine our way of life. Fears of what could happen are different from the actual threat and once you have done everything you can reasonably do, there is nothing left and it serves no one to dwell on things that have not yet arrived and may never arrive. We can protect our dogs without putting them in a closet as nothing keeps them totally safe anyway. Just like our lives, we must balance our fear of what could happen with the quality of life we are trying to provide them. Just a bit of perspective on Canine Influenza.