By Erica Radhakrishnan


Canine influenza, more commonly known as the dog flu, has made its way to Lexington.  It is a highly contagious respiratory infection that can make your dog sick.  The severity of the illness varies.  Some dogs are able to produce sufficient infection-fighting antibodies after exposure and do not show any signs of the illness.  Others can show a range of disease symptoms from mild to severe.  

These include: 
- A soft, moist cough lasting 10 to 30 days.  Some dogs may experience a dry cough similar to kennel cough.
- Sneezing and/or thick discharge from the nose caused  by a secondary infection
- Discharge from the eyes
- Lethargy
- Loss of appetite
- Fever 
More Severe Include:
- Increased breathing rate and/or effort
- High fever 
- Pneumonia

Since we know a strain of canine influenza is present in Lexington, if your dog has a cough, do not ignore it.  Take them to see a veterinarian.  While most dogs recover in two to three weeks with treatment, canine influenza and secondary infections from the disease can be fatal.  Therefore, the sooner your dog can be seen for evaluation and receive treatment, the better.   Treatment recommendations will depend upon the diagnosis, symptoms, and severity of your pet’s condition.  Recommendations may include laboratory tests and treatments such as blood work, x-rays, fluids, anti-viral and/or cough suppression medications, antibiotics, and possibly hospitalization.  
There are ways to reduce the risk of your dog contracting the virus.  The virus is transmitted directly from one infected individual to another.  Therefore, if you suspect your dog is infected contain them to your home.  Do not bring them to local dog parks, doggie day cares, training classes, boarding facilities, dog shows or competitions until you receive confirmation from a veterinarian that your dog does not have the flu.  For this reason, when you do bring your dog to the vet for evaluation, you may be asked to enter the hospital through a secondary entryway rather than the front door.  This measure is taken to prevent the spread of disease.  Likewise, to reduce the risk of your dog contracting the virus, you may choose not to frequent areas mentioned above until the season for canine flu passes.  Although the disease is highly contagious from dog to dog, the virus is short lived in the environment.  
Vaccines are available for the two known strains of canine influenza – H3N8 and H3N2.   However, one vaccine does not exist to cover both strains and neither vaccine can completely eliminate the risk of your dog contracting the disease.  The vaccine can reduce the severity of symptoms that your dog may experience should they be exposed, as well as their ability to transmit the disease to another dog.  These phenomena are similar to those of human flu vaccines.  If you are interested in more information about vaccinating your pet for canine influenza, contact you local general veterinarian for advice.  They will be able to provide you with the best information about the strain and prevalence of canine influenza impacting our area.