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Canine Influenza Virus (Dog Flu)

By: PetPlace Staff

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Diagnosis

A complete medical history may help to reveal recent exposure to a kennel or other dogs. However, it will be difficult in some situations to differentiate this virus from the common "Kennel Cough" virus mentioned above. Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize it and exclude other diseases. These tests may include:

  • A chest X-ray may be recommended to determine if pneumonia is present.

  • Routine laboratory blood tests-a complete blood count (CBC) or blood chemistry panel is not necessary unless your pet is showing signs of generalized illness, fever or loss of appetite.

  • A fecal flotation should be done to exclude intestinal parasites.

  • Blood titers – Testing for the virus is being done through veterinary diagnostic centers. The test can be performed by using testing respiratory secretions at the time of disease onset or by blood samples.

    According to Dr. Crawford, blood testing recommendations include that a sample be submitted during the first week of illness (acute sample) followed by another sample 2 – 3 weeks later (convalescent sample). Diagnosis is based on a four-fold increase in antibody titers from acute to convalescent phase. They need 1/2 ml of serum for this test. For more information about sample submission, talk to your veterinarian (also, they can go to http://www.diaglab.vet.cornell.edu/news.asp). With the sample, the lab is also requesting additional information to help them characterize the disease and locations. Antibodies are generally not detectable during the first week of clinical signs but are detectable after the first week and for up to 2 years after infection. If an acute sample is not available, exposure can be confirmed by the presence of antibodies in a convalescent sample.

    Treatment

    Therapy is controversial because in the early stages, it is difficult to determine if this virus is the new virus or kennel cough virus. Most infected dogs will recover with no treatment. A small percentage of dogs will develop severe and possibly fatal pneumonia. It has been recommended that all dogs with a fever and cough should have appropriate blood tests submitted and treated aggressively to minimize fatalities. Treatment may include the following:

  • Antibiotics are used in some patients, especially if a secondary bacterial infection is likely.

  • Intravenous fluid therapy has been used and associated with improvement and less fatalities in affected pets.

  • Antiviral drugs such as amantidine and tamiflu may be effective, however, their usefulness in this syndrome may be limited as they are most effective if given before infection or exposure or in the very early stages of infection.

  • Cough suppressants may be appropriate for some pets. Your veterinarian can discuss the pros and cons of this treatment. Injections or pills (butorphanol) are often used, but occasionally, a stronger medicine is needed (codeine-related) to break the cough cycle. Don't use over-the-counter human medicine without first speaking to your veterinarian.

  • Dogs should be kept in isolation if treated in the hospital and very good disinfection measures need to be used.

    For more information on Home Care and Prevention go to:Canine Influenza Virus (Dog Flu).


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