Canine and Feline Flu: Concern, not Panic

Media exposure and internet rumors surrounding canine influenza have scientists and veterinarians scrambling to clarify a sea of misinformation. Veterinarians are coping with a highly infectious canine virus establishing itself in dog populations.

It has been confirmed that canine influenza has appeared in nine states – Kentucky, Florida, California, New York, Ohio, Maryland, Massachusetts, Washington, and New Jersey. Most cases have originated from boarding and kennel operations. The virus was identified last year as equine (horse) flu that jumped species, from the horse to the dog. It is not the “bird flu” that we have all been hearing about in the news.

Coughing is the first sign you will notice if your dog contracts canine influenza. Most cases will be mild, with half of all infected dogs showing no signs at all. The symptoms can rapidly progress to pneumonia in a small number of cases. Pneumonia in dogs is serious and needs prompt medical care by your veterinarian. An even smaller number of dogs (1-3%) can die from this disease. Most dogs that become ill with canine influenza start with a cough and get very sick, very fast. But remember, it can be successfully treated in most cases. There is a vaccine to prevent infection, and you should consider getting this if your dog is going to be in environments with other dogs, like kennels, parks, groomers, etc.

There is a lot of misinformation surrounding this disease. Rumors are circulating on the internet and in the media, and it isn’t very easy to separate fact from fiction. This is an emerging disease, but it is not an epidemic. Stay informed and don’t panic. Your veterinarian can help you make sure you are getting the correct information.

Can canine influenza viruses infect people?
I get this question occasionally. Canine influenza viruses pose only a slight threat to people. To date, there is no evidence of the spread of canine influenza viruses from dogs to people. There has not been one reported case of human infection from a canine influenza virus in the U.S. or worldwide.
However, according to the CDC, flu viruses constantly change, and it is possible a canine influenza virus could change so that it could infect people and spread quickly between people. But to date, no human infections with canine influenza A viruses have been identified.

Is there a test for Canine Influenza?

There are test to confirm the canine influenza virus infection in dogs. Consult your veterinarian about whether testing should be done.

Can cats get influenza?
Cats can catch the flu, as well as an upper respiratory infection. Cats of all ages are vulnerable but young, and senior kitties are particularly susceptible because their immune systems are not as strong as cats in their prime.

Cats catch the flu when they come into direct contact with an infected cat or the virus particles. The virus can be excreted in saliva and discharge from the eyes and nose of an infected cat. It’s essential to keep your cat away from other cats that are sick.
If your cat “catches” the flu or an upper respiratory infection, the virus may hang around.

Always seek veterinary care. Cats are sneaky about being sick.

For more information or questions, join us on our Vets Talk Pets podcast or reach out to us at one of the contacts below!

Gary Beall DVM
Chip Beall DVM
Springboro Veterinary Hospital
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