Canine Influenza Testing

Canine influenza is a serious medical condition that requires prompt, effective veterinary treatment. However, in order for dog owners to recognize when treatment might be warranted, they must first understand how canine influenza presents and why testing for it is essential to the overall health of the dog.

Overview of Canine Influenza

The canine influenza virus is caused by a particular strain of the influenza A virus known as H3N8. Although it was originally recognized as an equine influenza virus, as recently as 2004, it started to become recognizable in dogs; and it can now be transmitted between canines. Now that dogs have become susceptible to this particular strain of influenza, the organism has successfully been able to modify itself so that it can continue to infect dogs.

The spread of canine influenza occurs through respiratory secretions, making it highly transmittable between dogs. In general, most dogs are able to fight off this strain of influenza with medical treatment. However, the illness typically lasts anywhere between 10 and 30 days despite treatment efforts. In some cases, pneumonia can develop as a secondary illness and make the overall condition last longer.

The veterinary community has recently identified the onset of canine influenza as a newly emerging pathogen; so while influenza was not thought to affect dogs 10 years ago, it is important for dog owners to understand that the threat of influenza to dogs is now very real.

Signs and Symptoms of Influenza in Dogs

In order for dog owners to seek treatment for their dog, they must be able to identify when there is a problem. Again, canine influenza is somewhat of a new influenza strain; so a lot of dog owners are not yet aware that their dog has become susceptible.

Here are some of the signs and symptoms that could indicate canine influenza:

  • Fever (fevers of more than 104 degrees indicate a severe form of canine influenza)
  • Runny nose/nasal discharge
  • Watering of the eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Decreased appetite
  • Decreased stamina or lethargy

Canine Influenza Testing

In order to determine if a dog is affected by canine influenza, it must be tested. This test can be done with either respiratory secretions or blood. Some dogs do not experience a great deal of nasal discharge when infected with canine influenza, so it is sometimes easier to collect a blood sample. The specimen is then sent off for laboratory evaluation where technicians look for a specific antigen against the canine influenza virus. If this antigen is found, it means the dog’s system has created an antigen in an attempt to fight off the illness, essentially deeming the dog canine influenza positive.

Although there are home kits available for the testing of canine influenza, you are likely to get a more accurate result by having the test performed by your veterinarian. While the fatality rate of canine influenza is only about 8%, the illness can quickly progress without prompt treatment; so it is more beneficial to get an accurate diagnosis and begin immediate treatment.