Monthly Doctor’s Blog- Special Update: Canine Influenza/Canine Upper Respiratory Virus

Every month, the doctors of AtlasVet write a blog post to help pet owners with common questions

Given the high number of coughing dogs the veterinary world is seeing around the District, Dr. Antkowiak has compiled notes from several of our doctors and sources to provide you with a Canine Influenza/Upper Respiratory Virus Update

Throughout the DMV, there has been an uptick in canine upper respiratory infections. In DC, AtlasVet and local emergency hospitals are seeing an uptick in coughing canine patients. These dogs have a dry cough, are otherwise healthy and usually get better in 3-5 days. Some have shown more advanced clinical signs and have required additional diagnostics and/or medication.  

A few of these cases have been confirmed as canine influenza. Because there is no central database in DC for reporting infectious diseases in pets, the exact numbers are not known. Because of our own concerns and concerns of our clients, we are maintaining contact with the DC Veterinary Medical Association and the Department of Health.

Canine influenza is a respiratory virus of the dog that can cause cough, fatigue, decreased appetite and congestion.  It cannot be spread to other species (aka humans, cats, etc).  A vaccine for canine influenza exists but currently there is a nationwide shortage and the cost, in our opinion, is exorbitant.  Like most vaccines, it may not prevent your dog from catching the virus, but could potentially decrease clinical signs.

It is very difficult to discern canine influenza from other forms of common respiratory viruses as the clinical signs are often identical. If an owner consents to a PCR test, we can definitively diagnose canine influenza.  But with the mild clinical signs we are seeing, blood tests are often not required. 

Bottom line:  There are currently increased numbers of coughing dogs in DC. Respiratory illnesses are common in dogs – Think of kids in a pre-school and their predilection for passing around a cold. Most dogs who develop an upper respiratory infection remain overall healthy and feel better in a few days.

If you are concerned about your dog being exposed to respiratory infections (“kennel cough”, influenza or otherwise) you may temporarily consider avoiding dog parks and/or socialization with dogs you are not familiar with.  If your dog has a respiratory illness, please keep them away from public areas and keep them home from daycare.  If your dog’s signs are mild (light cough, clear nasal discharge, continuing to eat and drink, mild decrease in energy), there is a very good chance that signs will resolve on their own.  Consultation with your veterinarian should be considered with a prolonged, worsening cough of more than 48 hours, loss of appetite for 24 hours or more, significant lethargy, or a combination thereof.