Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease or Canine Influenza hits Midwest

The Chicago Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) recommends dog owners take immediate measures to prevent exposure, while the AVMA has released an overview of canine influenza.

You’ve seen the news: Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD) has hit Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana, with 5 dogs reported dead and thousands more infected.  The Chicago Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) is recommending that dog owners take immediate, precautionary measures to prevent exposure to the virus.

Dr. Donna Alexander, director of Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control has been reviewing data on the flu and stated, “The summary of those hospitals that reported through the CVMA to our offices and those who reported directly to this office indicates that 73% of those responding note an increase in CIRD. For those that supplied exact number of animals, we can report that there have been 1,013 cases of CIRD since January and 5 mortalities. The age of the animals presenting vary but show more severe forms in dogs under 1 year of age and greater than 7 years of age. Few veterinarians are submitting diagnostic specimens for evaluation. Of those submitted for PCR or other testing, the majority came back negative, some are still pending. Of those reporting positive, 93% are positive for canine influenza.”

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) describes canine influenza as “a highly contagious infection caused by a novel influenza A subtype H3N8 virus first discovered in 2004. The canine influenza virus (CIV) has been classified as H3N8, based on the amino acid composition of the hemaglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N) glycoproteins in the lipid outer layer of the capsid.” The flu can be difficult to diagnose, as the clinical signs present themselves as other respiratory illnesses, including kennel cough.

The AVMA writes, “The majority of infected dogs exhibit the mild form of canine influenza. In the mild form, the most common clinical sign is a cough that persists for 10 to 21 days despite treatment with antibiotics and cough suppressants. Affected dogs may have a soft, moist cough or a dry cough similar to that induced by kennel cough. Nasal and/or ocular discharge, sneezing, lethargy and anorexia may also be observed. Many dogs develop a purulent nasal discharge and low-grade fever. The nasal discharge is usually caused by secondary bacterial infections, including Pasteurella multocida and mycoplasma species.

Some dogs are more severely affected with clinical signs of pneumonia, such as a high-grade fever (104°F to 106°F) and increased respiratory rate and effort. Thoracic radiography (chest x-rays) may reveal consolidation of lung lobes.”

The CVMA recommends pet owners contact their veterinarians if they see the following signs in their dogs:

  • Persistent, hacking cough
  • Lethargic behavior
  • A poor appetite
  • Nasal discharge
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fever

“Testing for canine influenza is available, and best results are obtained from samples taken very early in the onset of the illness. Sick dogs should be isolated from other animals,” writes the CVMA. Due to the contagious nature of canine influenza, some clinics have completely separate entrances for dogs suspected of having the illness.

The virus can stay in the environment for up to two days, and on hands and clothes for up to 24 hours. The AVMA recommends that employees wash their hands with soap and water in these situations:

  • Before and after handling each dog
  • After coming into contact with dogs' saliva, urine, feces, or blood
  • After cleaning cages
  • Upon arriving at and before leaving the facility.

“Isolation protocols should be rigorously applied for dogs showing clinical signs of respiratory disease. Sick or exposed dogs should be isolated for two weeks. Clothing, equipment, surfaces and hands should be cleaned and disinfected after exposure to dogs showing signs of respiratory disease,” the AVMA writes.

A vaccine is available. The CVMA recommends pet owners speak with their veterinarians about the vaccine.

The AVMA has a good resource for pet owners on canine influence at their website: the Canine Influenza FAQ. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has also released their own FAQ.

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