Dog Flu Virus

Dog flu virus, also known as Greyhound Disease or Race Flu, represents a canine health condition characterized by the infection of the respiratory tract. Since canine influenza can develop into a fatal pneumonia, knowing the symptoms and the treatment options for this disease is very important.

Symptoms of Canine Influenza

The symptoms listed below are noticeable in around 80 percent of the dogs infected with the canine influenza virus. These may vary in intensity:

  • Conjunctivitis
  • Cough
  • Depression
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Poor appetite
  • Rhinitis
  • Sneezing

Keep in mind, though, that in about 20 percent of the cases, the infection is asymptomatic, meaning that the dog features no canine influenza symptoms at all. Pneumonia is also sometimes regarded as a symptom of canine influenza, but it occurs as a result of a secondary bacterial infection, rather than because of the flu virus.

Dog Flu Diagnosis

Some of the canine influenza symptoms also pertain to kennel cough. However, in the case of the dogs who have been vaccinated for the latter, the suspicion of infection with canine influenza virus is greater. In order to make sure that the symptoms indicate dog flu and not some other health condition, the veterinarian will perform several tests, such as:

  • Blood chemistry panel
  • Blood titers
  • Chest X-ray
  • Complete blood count
  • Fecal flotation

The fecal flotation test is necessary for excluding intestinal parasites from the list of the possible causes of the symptoms. Blood tests, on the other hand, may need to be performed at least twice. These tests need to be repeated because the antibody titers differ between the acute phase and the convalescent phase of the infection.  

Treatment Options for Canine Flu

The treatment that will be chosen by the veterinarian depends on the severity of the symptoms. In the majority of the cases, veterinarians rely on:

  • Antibiotics
  • Antiviral drugs
  • Cough suppressants
  • Intravenous fluid therapy

Antibiotics represent the treatment of choice for canine influenza virus, particularly if a secondary bacterial infection has already developed or it is likely to occur. Intravenous fluid therapy, on the other hand, is recommended for improving the symptoms and for decreasing the fatality.

Amantidine and Tamiflu are some of the antiviral drugs used in the treatment of canine influenza. However, these drugs are more effective if used either as a preventive measure or in the very early stages of the infection. The main protective measure is represented by the first canine influenza vaccine, which has been approbated by USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) in June, 2009.

Cough suppressants such as Butorphanol or codeine-related drugs should be administered only after consulting a veterinarian. Even though some over-the-counter human drugs are sometimes given to animals for treating various diseases, in this case it is highly recommended not to do so.

Since canine influenza is highly contagious, dogs suffering from this health condition should be kept isolated. Disinfection measures need to be taken in order to make sure that the disease is not transmitted to other dogs. Besides that, you have to make sure that the dog stays hydrated throughout the entire period of the infection. Until the dog gets better, you have to encourage him to exercise less and to rest more.