Currently Sun Prairie Pet Clinic is closely monitoring the incidence of a Canine Influenza outbreak that is taking place in Chicago.

Canine Influenza (CI), also known as ‘dog flu’ is an influenza virus that was first recognized as a novel canine disease in 2004.  The initial cases involved racing Greyhounds in Florida; since that time there have been cases recorded in 30 states, with the disease now recognized as endemic (meaning it is now a commonly noted disease) in parts of Colorado, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Similar to other influenza viruses, CI has been classified based on its unique structure; the CI that is responsible for the current outbreak is labeled H3N8.  Unlike other influenza viruses (like H1N1 in people), the canine influenza virus does not appear to have the ability to infect other species at this time.  There is another distinct canine influenza (H3N2) that has been identified in Asia; there are no reports of H3N2 outside of Asia and no reports of H3N8 outside of the United States.

CI is a particularly difficult disease to contain because it is extremely easy to transmit from dog-to-dog.  The virus is transmitted through the respiratory secretions of infected dogs as well as through contaminated objects.  This virus will remain alive and potentially infectious on hard surfaces for 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours, and on hands for 12 hours.  An infected dog is potentially contagious to other dogs for several days before ever showing symptoms.  Because of this, outbreaks are typically swift and severe, with virtually all non-vaccinated exposed dogs expected to become infected.

Once exposed, most dogs (about 80%) will show symptoms; the other 20% that do not can still transmit the virus.  Most dogs (over 90%) will show only mild symptoms of CI.  Mild cases will typically show a cough that persists 10 – 21 days despite antibiotics and cough suppressants, runny nose and eyes, sneezing, lethargy, and a decrease in appetite.  The cough that is seen can be a dry hacking cough or a more moist productive cough.  A small percentage of infected dogs (less than 10%) will show a severe form of the disease, which includes pneumonia, high grade fever (usually from 104° to 106° F), and rapid breathing.  In approximately 2% of infected dogs, the disease has been fatal.  There is no specific treatment for CI.  Severe cases benefit from hospitalization for supportive care (which could include nutritional support, oxygen therapy, IV antibiotics, among other things); mild cases will frequently convalesce and recover at home with nursing care from the owner.

There is a vaccine available for H3N8 Canine Influenza.  This vaccine may not prevent infection completely, but is has been shown to be very effective at reducing the severity and duration of the illness.  Additionally, the vaccine has shown to reduce the amount of virus that is transmitted from a patient as well as the duration of time that the virus is transmitted.  Dogs that have access to other dogs in a social or working situation (dogs that visit dog parks, dog care care, dogs that are kenneled or boarded, show dogs or dogs that compete in agility or other competitions) are considered at risk and the use of this vaccine should be considered for them.

There are no confirmed cases of Canine Influenza in the Madison area at this time stemming from the outbreak that is occurring in Chicago.  Due to the highly infectious nature of this disease and the fact that many of our local residents visit the Chicago area frequently, we feel that there is a substantial risk that this disease will find its way here.  We are counseling all of our clients about this disease and evaluating risk of exposure and potential benefit of vaccination on a case by case basis.  If you have any questions about Canine Influenza or the steps you can take to protect your dog, please call Sun Prairie Pet Clinic for more information.


American Veterinary Medical Association – Canine Influenza –, updated April 2015

Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine – Canine Influenza –, updated June 2014