In the past several days, we have examined an alarmingly high number of coughing dogs (dozens). These dogs have come from a variety of situations, but most commonly have history of visiting one of several different boarding facilities within 2-5 days prior to the onset of the coughing. Some of these dogs have had a fever and a few have been ill enough that they have required hospitalization.
Due to our concern of a possible outbreak of influenza H3N2 (an Asian canine influenza seen in the Chicago area earlier this spring) we have been sending out special testing (respiratory PCR panels) on several of these coughing dogs. We are still waiting on the majority of these tests but to date have two confirmed positive tests for influenza H3N2 and suspect many of the others that we didn’t test to be positive as well.
Dog owners need to know the following:
There is not an effective vaccine for influenza H3N2 available. (There is an influenza vaccine, but it is not for this strain and crossprotection is unlikely). THE BEST PREVENTION IS TO KEEP YOUR DOGS AT HOME. Avoid especially kenneling, grooming, and dog parks where your pet would be most likely to come into contact with an infected dog. The incubation period (time from exposure to start of symptoms of disease) is very short at only 1-5 days. Dogs will be shedding the virus prior to getting sick, so your dog can be exposed by another dog who is still acting healthy. The virus is spread through aerosolization and can live for a short time as a fomite on surfaces.
Signs of influenza are varied but most have a hacking, incessant cough (exactly like kennel cough). Most dogs keep eating and drinking and act fairly normal other than the incredibly annoying cough. However, some dogs develop much more severe disease – high fever, anorexia, and pneumonia. For most dogs, the cough will last about 7-10 days but can continue longer depending on severity of the disease. In rare cases, influenza can be fatal (usually the very young, old, or immunocompromised).
The treatment will vary based on your veterinarian’s recommendations but typically dogs are put on an antibiotic to protect against secondary bacterial pneumonia, a cough suppressant, and sometimes an anti-inflammatory. Severe cases requiring hospitalization are put on intravenous fluids and intravenous antibiotics.
AGAIN WE STRONGLY RECOMMEND AVOIDING CONTACT WITH OTHER DOGS – especially in a boarding situation. We encourage owners to have people in to their homes as housesitters/dog sitters and avoid kenneling. At this time we are keeping our boarding facility open for our clients that have no other options and doing our very best (as always) with decontamination, but even with the best cleaning and isolation protocols the risk of infection in the midst of an outbreak is high. If your dogs need to be kenneled, there is a very high chance they will be exposed to the illness, thus we encourage you to keep them at home if at all possible.
If your dog is experiencing coughing, especially if they have a history of being around other dogs in a grooming, dog park, or kenneling situation, we encourage you to have them examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Below is a link to additional information from the CDC regarding canine influenza: