Important information about Canine Influenza

Within the past few months, there have been reports of Canine Influenza (also known as Dog Flu) popping up around the Twin Cities. While we haven’t seen any cases in our shelters, we want to make sure that our animal-loving supporters have the information they need to keep their pets safe.

What is Canine Influenza?

Canine Influenza is a virus that causes a respiratory infection in dogs. In very rare cases, cats can be affected as well. Current cases of Canine influenza are being caused by H3N2 virus, which emerged in Chicago in 2015.

The virus is transmitted when dogs inhale viral particles spread by an infected dog through coughing. Dogs usually start showing signs two to four days after being exposed to the virus, however they can be contagious before they show signs and for up to three weeks after initially showing signs.

Clinical signs and the severity of the disease can range widely from a mild sneeze and cough that clear on their own all the way to pneumonia with a high fever and thick, green nasal discharge.

How is Canine Influenza different than Kennel Cough?

Kennel Cough is a catch-all term used for any respiratory disease with a similar set of symptoms including sneezing, a hacking cough, and nasal discharge, all the way through pneumonia. There are around 20 different bacteria and viruses that can cause kennel cough. Canine Influenza is one of them.

If Canine Influenza is just another virus that can cause Kennel Cough, why be worried?

There are two reasons to be watchful for Canine Influenza.

First, Canine Influenza is more likely to cause severe symptoms like a high fever and pneumonia than other common causes of kennel cough.

More importantly, dog flu is an emerging disease. This means that most dogs have not been exposed to it and therefore have no natural immunity to the disease, which they are likely to have to diseases that have been around for a while. This increases the risk that the virus can spread quickly through a population, especially when the dogs are close together, like in a shelter or boarding facility.

Are the dogs at Animal Humane Society or Now Boarding at risk?

There is a risk, but it’s is low. There have been only eight cases of Canine Influenza reported to the state board through July. Fortunately, we are not seeing an increase in positive cases, which can happen with an outbreak.

How is Animal Humane Society keeping the risk of spreading dog flu to a minimum?

Since we see a lot of kennel cough in shelter, we already have good processes in place. We isolate and separate dogs that are showing kennel cough signs. We are also testing dogs that show more severe Kennel Cough signs for dog flu. Fortunately, those that have been tested have all come back clear. If we ever do have a dog test positive, we will isolate and quarantine as is appropriate to protect the rest of our population.

As always it’s critical that potential adopters, staff, and volunteers wash their hands between interacting animals, as we often act as carriers that transmit the disease from one animal to the next.

Should I vaccinate my dog for dog flu?

Right now, dog flu is not a core vaccine (like Parvo, Rabies, and Distemper), so the decision to vaccinate depends on a myriad of factors including how many other dogs your dog interacts with and where they travel. This is a perfect conversation for you to have with your veterinarian. Also, just like the flu vaccine developed for people each year, the dog flu vaccine is not 100 percent effective at preventing disease, so you should continue to take normal precautions with your pets.

Are there extra precautions I should take with my pet?

Following good hygiene habits in shelter and at home with our dogs are things we should always be doing. 

  • If your dog is sick, don’t bring them around other dogs. 
  • If another dog is sick or coughing, don’t bring your dog around them. 
  • When going between dogs in a shelter or boarding facility, be sure to wash your hands appropriately.

Following these simple rules and talking to your vet about the Canine Influenza vaccine won’t completely eliminate the risk of dog flu, but will keep it to a minimum helping your pets stay healthy and happy.

Where can I go for more information?

There is a ton of information out there about Dog Flu. To get reliable information, you should go to a reputable source. Animal Humane Society recommends:

For caring, compassionate advice and resources to address all your animal concerns.

Contact the Pet Helpline