Canine Influenza is strain of the influenza A virus known as H3N8, a highly contagious flu that is able to cause respiratory illness in dogs. Humans are not at risk of contracting it but for dogs, but it is highly contagious for dogs.
Virtually all dogs are at risk because it is spread through direct contact (touching noses, sharing water bowls & toys), through the air (sneezing & coughing), and via contaminated surfaces.
Your dog could be at risk if it: came from a shelter, rescue center, breeder, or pet store; boarded at a kennel or went to doggie daycare; attended group dog training; visited a grooming facility or dog parks; entered or attended dog events; came into contact with other dogs in the waiting room during visits to the vet.
Cases have been reported in 38 states, including Texas.
The most common sign is a persistent cough, which makes it very hard to initially diagnose (due to its similarity to what is commonly referred to as kennel cough). In mild cases, signs can include a low-grade fever, nasal discharge, lack of energy, loss of appetite, and a cough that can last for up to a month. In more severe cases, a high grade fever and pneumonia can develop.
To protect your dog against canine influenza, there is a vaccine to help protect your dog. The initial vaccine requires 2 doses, 2-4 weeks apart, followed by annual revaccination. If your dog is currently vaccinated for kennel cough (bordetella), it is a likely candidate for the canine influenza vaccine.
The Houston Humane Society offers the canine influenza vaccine at its low-cost Wellness Center. For more information about canine influenza, please visit the Houston Humane Society.