Canine Influenza

fluDid you know that dogs also have a flu virus, Canine Influenza (H3N8). Like the Swine flu, a vaccination for Canine influenza has been developed.


In January 2004, there was a sudden outbreak of respiratory disease among 22 racing greyhounds at a Florida racetrack. Most of the dogs developed a mild fever followed by a cough that lasted about 14 days, and then recovered. But slightly more than one third of the dogs died after developing hemorrhaging in the lungs. Within six months, the virus turned up in other racing greyhounds at tracks in six other states- then at 20 tracks in 11 states, and now the virus has affected pet dogs in over 30 states. However, it is most prevalent in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Colorado.

The canine flu virus actually mutated from a virus that has affected horses for over forty years. And since there has never been a case of the equine virus affecting humans, experts are fairly certain that the canine influenza virus will not infect humans either. But with the recent news and hype about the human swine flu, the canine influenza virus will continue to be monitored closely.

Canine influenza should be considered in dogs presenting with a cough and a recent history of exposure to other dogs. The biggest predisposing factor would be the pet’s lifestyle. If within the last 10 to 14 days, the dog was at a shelter, rescue facility, pet store, boarding facility, groomer, or doggie day care, canine influenza is a possible diagnosis. This new virus is easily transmitted between dogs in much the same way that flu spreads among humans, but not all dogs get sick and not all dogs who get sick will die. However, because this is still considered a new virus, all dogs are considered susceptible to
infection because they have no naturally acquired or vaccine induced immunity. Another problem is that the canine flu virus may initially be misdiagnosed as another respiratory disease in dogs known as “kennel cough” which could further cause the rapid spread of the disease.

Dr. Cynda Crawford, University of Florida Veterinary School veterinarian and researcher, in a scientific paper when the virus was first identified said, “Canine influenza is really the new kid on the block for vets to consider in the differential diagnosis for kennel cough.” She further cautions veterinarians that while 80 percent of flu-stricken dogs will have a mild form of the disease, even dogs who are not overtly sick could be contagious. When asked why we haven’t heard much about this disease in recent years, she states, “I think when it was first reported in 2004 it was a very newsworthy item. I think the virus has now become commonplace in many communities throughout the United States and so it has lost its newsworthy glamor.” This may
change with the release of the new vaccination and the hype of the Swine flu vaccine about to be released.

Dog owners should take heed that if their dogs are coughing, sneezing, or have runny nose, they should not “shrug it off” as just kennel cough, “a little cold” or even allergies. Canine influenza usually starts out with coughing or gagging that may last as long as three weeks. Symptoms typically appear within 7 to 10 days post exposure. Clinical signs in dogs include coughing, runny nose, lethargy, depression, and a fever as high as 103-107 degrees. In the acute and severe form, a viral pneumonia can develop.

While highly contagious, some good news is that the virus is easily killed by soap and water, disinfectants and 10 percent bleach solutions. Transmission can be prevented by isolating all suspected dogs, thorough cleaning of all cages and exposed surfaces such as floors, kennels food dishes and bedding. Animal caretakers should be diligent about wearing disposable gloves or washing hands in between handling dogs and any urine, stool, or saliva, and before entering or leaving any facility that houses dogs.

In September 2008, the AVMA News Update stated, “The AVMA believes there is an urgent need for an effective canine influenza virus vaccine to improve the health and welfare of animals and reduce the financial impacts of the canine influenza.” Intervet Schering-Plough Animal Health has developed a vaccine for the Canine Influenza Vaccine (H3N8).

Intervet Schering-Plough Animal Health developed “this new vaccination (to) aid in the control of the disease associated with
canine influenza virus infection. It has been demonstrated to reduce the incidence and severity of lung lesions as well as duration of coughing and viral shedding.” Pet owners will want to discuss the new vaccination with their veterinarian and decide if it is right for their pet. The initial series is two vaccinations given two (2) to four (4) weeks apart. It can be administered to pet’s six (6) weeks or older. Annual vaccination is recommended.


While veterinarians do want dog owners to be aware and cautious of the canine influenza flu, they do not want people to panic. They warn owners to take their dog to their veterinarian at the first sign of any respiratory illness or problem. The virus has been identified in dogs of all ages. Dogs may be at higher risk if they are young, old, have an immune problem, or are undergoing chemotherapy. Diagnosing the Canine influenza virus is difficult based on the shedding periods and
the onset of clinical symptoms. Depending on the stage of presentation to the veterinarian, there are multiple tests that can be preformed. Blood testing during several phases of the illness may be the most common recommended by your veterinarian.

Dog owners should contact  their veterinarians for more information and to stay current on news about this disease.Helpful websites include University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine –

Vaccinations in Dogs

Vaccinating your dogVaccinations can protect your dog against serious infectious illnesses, but they arent one size fits all. Your veterinarian will help you select the vaccines your dog needs based on age, health status, lifestyle and other risk factors. Even though he may not need vaccines that often, your dog should have a veterinary checkup every six to twelve months.

Core Vaccines
Core vaccines are those recommended for nearly every dog. Core vaccines for dogs are Canine Distemper, Canine Adenovirus-2, Parvovirus, and Rabies. The first three are usually combined in a single injection given to puppies starting at 6-8 weeks of age and boostered every 3-4 weeks until at least sixteen weeks of age. Thereafter, the combination vaccine is repeated every 1-3 years. Rabies vaccination is given first at 12 to 16 weeks of age and boostered one year later. After that, the Rabies vaccine is repeated every one to three years depending on the laws in your area.

Canine Distemper is a serious, highly contagious disease. It weakens the immune system, leaving infected dogs vulnerable to other infections. Symptoms include fever, coughing, green nasal and eye discharge, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, loss of appetite, thickened toe pads, muscle twitching, seizures, and blindness. Puppies are most susceptible. Distemper is fatal in up to 90% of cases. Fortunately, the vaccination is very effective if given prior to the dogs exposure.

There are two forms of Canine Adenovirus, CAV-1 and CAV-2. Vaccination with CAV-2 provides protection against both. CAV-1 is the cause of Infectious Canine Hepatitis, which damages the liver. CAV-2 is one of several organisms that can cause Infectious Canine Tracheobronchitis, or Kennel Cough. Just as you would expect, the main sign is a persistent cough. Its spread mainly in places where large numbers of dogs are in close proximity, such as kennels, shelters, grooming facilities, or dog shows.

Canine Parvovirus (CPV) is a highly contagious disease affecting the digestive system. It can also weaken the immune system and damage the heart. Signs include fever, lethargy, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, dehydration and loss of appetite. It can be fatal, especially in puppies born to un-vaccinated mothers. Parvovirus treatment usually requires hospitalization.

Rabies is an incurable disease of the nervous system that is nearly always fatal. Worse yet, it is transmitted between most animal species, including humans. Although rabies transmission requires direct body fluid contact, even indoor pets can be at risk since sick wild animals may enter homes. Regular rabies vaccination is mandated by law in most states.

Non-Core Vaccines
A myriad of other vaccines are available for dogs. Your veterinarian can help you determine the right ones for your dog.

Infectious Canine Tracheobronchitis (Kennel Cough) is a treatable respiratory illness. It can be caused by CAV-2, Canine Para influenza, and Bordetella bronchiseptica. The combination vaccine normally given to dogs includes CAV-2 and Para influenza. Dogs at high risk of exposure to kennel cough can receive a more potent vaccine, given as nose drops or as an injection that protects against Bordetella as well. This is recommended for dogs that are boarded, groomed professionally, or taken to dog shows.

Leptospirosis is a serious illness that damages the kidneys and liver and can be transmitted to people. Unfortunately, the vaccine provides only moderate protection and can cause allergic reactions. Therefore, some veterinarians do not recommend vaccinating every dog. Dogs at highest risk of exposure are those that are exposed to water that may be contaminated by urine from wild animals or farm animals.

Lyme Disease causes sore joints, fever, and swollen lymph nodes. It is transmitted by ticks and can infect people too. Lyme disease is treatable with antibiotics if caught early. Vaccination for Lyme Disease is recommended for tick-exposed dogs in areas where the disease is common, such as the northeastern U.S.

Canine Coronavirus causes gastrointestinal illness similar to parvovirus, but milder. Because infection is mild and relatively uncommon in many areas, the vaccine is not recommended for all dogs.

Giardia is a parasitic organism that causes diarrhea and can infect other animals and people as well as dogs. Dogs that drink water contaminated by wild animal feces are at highest risk. The vaccine, however, provides only partial protection. Giardia infection can be treated with antibiotics.

Preventive Health Care Beyond Vaccinations
Preventive health care for your dog means more than just vaccinations. Checkups every six to twelve months can catch many health problems while they are easily treatable. Parasite control, good nutrition, and regular dental care are other keys to keeping your dog healthy for years to come.

Kennel Cough

Kennel coughInfectious Canine Tracheobronchitis, more commonly known as Kennel Cough, is a contagious disease that affects the respiratory system. Like similar illnesses in people, it can be caused by a variety of organisms.

How Dogs Get Kennel Cough
Kennel cough is spread mainly by airborne viruses and bacteria expelled when infected dogs cough. People can inadvertently spread it on their hands, shoes, or inanimate objects.

The organisms most often implicated in cases of Kennel cough are Bordetella bronchiseptica, Canine Para influenza Virus, and Canine Adenovirus. Kennel cough spreads readily in places where many dogs are housed in close confinement, such as kennels, animal shelters, grooming parlors, and dog shows.

Not every dog exposed to the organisms that cause Kennel Cough will get sick. Stress, health status, and respiratory irritants like dust or smoke also play a role.

What the Disease Does
Most dogs with Kennel Cough are only mildly ill. The main symptom is a dry, hacking cough, sometimes accompanied by poor appetite. Most dogs recover within a few weeks. However, very young or highly stressed dogs can get seriously ill, progressing to bronchopneumonia. They may have a fever, greenish nasal discharge, and a productive cough.

How Kennel Cough is Diagnosed
Diagnosis is based on medical history and physical examination. Dogs with this illness usually cough when the windpipe is palpated. Accurate information about vaccination history is valuable, because the veterinarian must make sure that coughing is not caused by Canine Distemper.

Treatment for Kennel Cough
Dogs with mild illness may not require treatment, but cough suppressants and anti-inflammatories can help them feel more comfortable. More severe infections are treated with antibiotics and bronchodilators.

Preventing Kennel Cough
The combination vaccination routinely given to all dogs gives partial protection against two of the organisms that cause Kennel Cough, Canine Para influenza Virus and Canine Adenovirus. Dogs at higher risk include show dogs and those that are boarded or groomed professionally. They should be given a comprehensive Kennel Cough vaccine. One dose of vaccine is given initially, and is safe for puppies as young as two weeks old. Re-vaccination is recommended annually, although some boarding facilities require more frequent boosters. Both injectable and intranasal (nose drops) vaccines are available. The intranasal type is more effective, but the injectable type is helpful for dogs that dont tolerate nose drops. The injectable vaccine requires two doses initially. Vaccinated dogs sometimes still get Kennel Cough, but the vaccine reduces its severity.

Dogs with Kennel Cough should be isolated from other dogs since the disease is contagious. Contaminated objects should be disinfected with a dilute bleach solution. It is possible, although uncommon in household situations, for Bordetella bronchiseptica to be passed to cats, rabbits, and guinea pigs.

Puppy Care

Congratulations! Bringing home a new puppy is fun, but it is also a huge responsibility that lasts its lifetime, which can sometimes reach 12 to 18 years or longer. The first six months of your puppies life are the most critical and establishes his health and behavior for the rest of his life.puppy You, as the puppies advocate, must ensure he is protected from disease with a series of vaccinations and effective monthly parasite control. Thousands of inadequately vaccinated puppies never make it to see their first birthday because of diseases such as parvovirus and distemper. Thousands more will die from heartworm disease from the bite of one single mosquito, and even more may succumb to intestinal parasites, such as hookworms, even before they even reach 2 months old.

The majority of dogs relinquished to animal shelters is usually because of behavioral issues, such as dog aggressiveness that results in a dog bite, the inability to house train or unruly and destructive behavior. These are natural tendencies in dogs, and it is your responsibility to learn the how the dog thinks and use the natural, instinctive pack leadership skills to effectively modify both you and your dog’s behavior and solidify a great and rewarding relationship with your new puppy and family

Puppy proofing your home is another safety precaution you must establish. There are several hazards to young puppies you must look out for, such as electrical cords, toxic houseplants, foods that must not be fed, and toxic substances that need to be secured. Providing a safe haven for your puppy, such as a crate, when you are away, will keep him out of trouble and will also hasten house training.

There is so much more that I want to share with you that I have developed a series of newsletters and videos to help you take great care of your puppy and then well into his senior years. Register for my puppy care newsletter and you will also get some bonus e-books.

Recommendations for Puppies

Age 2, 4, 6 weeks of age

* deworm for hookworms and roundworms
* check for other intestinal parasites such as coccidia, tapeworms, whipworms and giardia

6-8 weeks of age

* Wellness Examination (WE) Check eyes, ears, heart, lungs, teeth, and other structures.
* DHPP (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, Parvo, )
* Parasite Check
* Dewormer
* Start Heartworm preventative
* Start Flea medication
* Behavior counseling (crate training)

12 weeks

* Wellness Exam
* DHPP #2
* Bordetella #1
* Leptospirosis #1 (4 way)
* Dewormer
* Heartworm and Flea medication

16 weeks

* Wellness Exam
* DHPP#3
* Rabies
* Lepto #2
* Bordetella #2
* Heartworm and Flea medications

5months and older

* Spay or neuter
* Blood profile to screen for congenital problems prior to surgery
* give heartworm and flea medication every month all year round
* feed high quality pet foods, avoid generic brands
* Start getting your pet used to brushing teeth while they are young.

10months old

* parvo booster
* bordetella booster
* parasite check


* Wellnes Examination
* Rabies
* Leptospirosis
* Bordetella
* Heartworm (Erhlichia and Lyme) test
* Parasite Check
* Lyme booster
* Giardia booster
* If pet has received 2 Rabies Vaccinations exactly 365 days or less in a row, then pet may go to a Rabies injection every 3 years. If the two vaccines are more than 365 days apart, then they must get another vaccine within the year.
* Pets age 7 years for every 1 calender year. Physical exams on a bi-annual basis are a good way to screen for health problems before they become major.

Dr. Debra Garrison
Dr. Debra Garrison