Is an Outbreak of Canine Influenza a Problem Here?

Is an Outbreak of Canine Influenza a Problem Here?

You may have heard about an outbreak of Canine Influenza in the Chicago area and be worried for your dog. So far, there have been no cases reported in the Milwaukee area. Previous outbreaks of upper respiratory disease caused by Canine Influenza over the past ten years have been sporadic and limited. There is a very good chance the disease will stay limited to Chicago. So far, in testing affected dogs, most of them actually have Bordetella or Parainfluenza and only 20% of the sick Chicago dogs actually had Canine Influenza at all. Bordetella and Parainfluenza have been and remain much higher risks that Canine Influenza.

Symptoms of Canine flu are about the same as for other respiratory diseases of dogs – coughing is the most obvious symptom – but with a higher fever. The cough is deep and harsh and can keep you or the dog up all night. Treatment consists of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for fever, antibiotics to prevent secondary pneumonia and cough suppressants. Sometimes supportive care such as intravenous (IV) or subcutaneous (SQ) fluids are needed.

Most veterinarians in our area vaccinate for Bordetella (“kennel cough”) and Parainfluenza, though many dogs probably are unprotected because many pet owners mistakenly believe that if a dog isn’t boarded or kenneled there is no risk for these diseases. Respiratory diseases are very contagious, just like our own cold and flu viruses, linger in the environment for long time. Just going for walks on a sidewalk where other dogs have been is a risk for these diseases. Here at Best Friends Veterinary Center we recommend vaccination for these two more common diseases for almost every dog, the exceptions being those that never leave their yards.

Canine Influenza has its own vaccine. Since there have been no cases in our area in many years none of the veterinary hospitals in our area have been vaccinating against this it. We are sitting back waiting to see if it will spread further before we attempt to start a vaccine campaign.

Luckily for pets, there is a lot less risk for diseases traveling quickly than in humans simply because far fewer dogs and cats travel compared to humans. We don’t put 200 dogs on a bus or plane and move them from Chicago to Milwaukee. There is a very good chance that we won’t see a single case of Canine flu here. Sit tight for now while we see how this progresses and we will let you know if we think vaccination is warranted.

Update (14th April 15): The latest info on Canine Influenza is that this outbreak is an H3N2 strain. The vaccine is for H3N8. It’s not known yet how much protection the vaccine will provide since it’s not the same strain. 


Here are some helpful articles from MERCK Animal Health:

What You Need to Know about Dog Flu (Canine Influenza)

Tips to Protect your Dog from Dog Flu



About the Author

Dr. Nan Boss is the owner of Best Friends Veterinary Center in Grafton, WI. An author and a speaker, Dr. Boss is very active in organized veterinary medicine, having served on numerous boards and committees at local, state and national levels. She is also a board member of Muttland Meadows.

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