Diagnosing Dog Flu with an Antibody Test

An antibody test is the best way to diagnose dog or canine influenza. This is a blood test that is performed to detect serum antibodies that may be present in the dog’s blood. If a dog is suffering from canine flu, the antibody levels will rise. Two blood samples are tested to confirm diagnosis. The second test is conducted 2 to 3 weeks after the initial sample.

Dog Flu

Dog flu or canine influenza is a contagious respiratory disease caused by the canine influenza virus H3N8. This is a specific Type A influenza virus that is dog specific and the disease is easily transmitted between dogs, but not to humans. It is a horse influenza virus that has adapted to surviving in the canine system. Greyhounds were originally affected by canine influenza but all dogs are now susceptible to this disease.

It’s a highly contagious disease and 90 percent of dogs that are exposed to the virus contract the disease. In rare cases, complications such as pneumonia result in death. Dogs of all ages, breeds and both sexes are susceptible to the disease. Since it’s a new disease in dogs, pets have yet to acquire immunity to canine influenza. Mild cases of the disease resolve in 2 to 3 weeks but more severe diseases with complications such as pneumonia and bleeding in the lungs, take up to 6 weeks to subside.

Symptoms of Canine Influenza:

  • Mild cough
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Fever
  • Pneumonia
  • Bleeding in the lungs

Diagnostic Test

The most common way to confirm the infection is to run serological tests. The blood sample should first be tested within 7 days of the onset of the symptoms of canine influenza. Another test should then be carried out 2 to 3 weeks later. If there is a 4 fold increase in the antibody titer, it indicates that the dog is infected with dog flu. Serology, however, can’t be used to determine active infection. A single serological test that is positive can indicate that the dog has been exposed to the disease at sometime but can’t pinpoint when the exposure took place.

Tests such as PCR and an in-house Flu antigen ELISA kit can help detect current infection. Nasal swabs are used for these tests. The PCR test is most sensitive during the first couple of days after infection, when the symptoms haven’t yet manifested themselves. The ELISA test can also detect infection in the first couple of days after manifestation of clinical signs.

Positive tests confirm infection but negative PCR or ELISA tests shouldn’t be used to rule out infection as false negative PCR tests are common after the onset of clinical signs and false negative ELISA tests in general, are common as well. Fresh lung and trachea tissues of dogs that have died from pneumonia should be checked with the PCR analysis and virus recovered from such samples can help in the development of a vaccine and other diagnostic tests for canine influenza

Although canine influenza is highly contagious, it’s fatal in rare cases. If your pet shows symptoms of respiratory infection, you should consult a veterinarian at the earliest. If you must use facilities such as boarding kennels or day care centers, you should only use ones that are clean, reliable and well-ventilated. A nutritious diet, plenty of fluids, rest, proper care and support are essential for a quick and complete recovery.