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Canine Influenza (Dog Flu): How Voyce Can Help

By: Dr. Amanda Landis-Hanna

Canine Influenza virus has been all over the news recently.  In fact, Wednesday the Today Show covered dog influenza in a morning segment.  The deaths of several dogs in Chicago are heartbreaking, and we at Voyce™ offer our deepest condolences.  In some areas, confusion and panic for dog safety is emerging.  Our goal at Voyce is to provide pet parents with valid, valuable information.


Canine Influenza is a virus known in dogs since 2004.  The most common strain is H3N8, and outbreaks have been documented in several states.  According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, “CIV represents a rare event in adaptive evolution; the entire genome of the H3N8 equine influenza virus was transferred to dogs, and the virus adapted to the canine species to emerge as a new canine-specific virus.”  An FDA-approved vaccine is available to help protect dogs against this highly contagious disease.

The outbreak in Chicago is different.  According to Cornell University, “results from additional testing indicate that the outbreak is being caused by a virus closely related to Asian strains of influenza A H3N2 viruses, currently in wide circulation in southern Chinese and South Korean dog populations since being identified in 2006.”  The H3N2 strain has not been seen in the United States previously.

Canine Influenza is highly contagious among dogs, but is not contagious to humans.  Dogs can get the dog flu, and humans get the human flu—they do not transmit between the species. The most common routes of infection are nasal or oral, from inhalation of infected droplets.  Any item that has infected droplets is potentially a source of infection.  These sources include park benches, patches of grass, water bowls, and dog beds. Also, humans can carry the virus on their clothing and skin, therefore transmitting the infection.  A bleach solution (1 part bleach to 10 parts water) effectively kills the virus.

Common symptoms of influenza include cough for 14 to 21 days, lethargy, depression, poor appetite, and fever.  Breathing problems, such as congestion or pneumonia, may emerge, especially among brachycephalic (“flat faced”) dogs.  Examples of these dogs include Boxers, French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, Pekingese, Shih Tzus, Pugs, Boston Terriers, and Bull Mastiffs. Symptoms can develop quickly, but “it can take up to 10 days before a dog shows full-blown symptoms,” said Dr. Medinger of VCA Aurora Hospital in Aurora, IL.

Dogs at high risk for infection include social dogs, who frequent doggie daycares, walk with other dogs, or visit dog parks.  Senior dogs and puppies may be at higher risk if their immune system is challenged.  Dogs with compromised immune systems, such as those undergoing chemotherapy, may be at higher risk as well.

Due to the coughing, many pet parents suspect their dog has a cold, or even kennel cough, Bordatella bronchiseptica.  Vaccines are available for Bordatella and Canine Influenza H3N8, but no vaccine is currently available for Influenza H3N2.  It is currently unclear if the vaccine for Canine Influenza virus H3N8 will protect against this newer strain.

How can Voyce help?

For pet parents already using Voyce, we recommend monitoring your data closely, but do not panic.  If you think your dog may have been exposed, mark a note in your data when you first notice symptoms or as symptoms change to help your veterinarian track possible progression.  Changes in your data may include:

  • Decreased activity—distance and intensity. Decreased activity may be noticeable as the virus settles into the dog’s lungs and can be seen through the total amount of activity, a decrease in distance, and a decrease in intensity.
  • Increased resting respiratory rate. As influenza affects a dog’s respiratory system, you should monitor for an increase in your dog’s resting respiratory rate. 
  • An increase in restlessness can be identified through a decrease in your dog’s Longest Period of Uninterrupted rest.

If you see these changes, in conjunction with a cough, do not panic. Healthy dogs have a very low risk of fatality with influenza. Monitor your dogs for signs and symptoms and seek veterinary attention when identified.

When visiting your vet, a test sample may be collected and sent to Cornell University, to test for Influenza strains, as well as other respiratory conditions such as Bordatella.  Make sure to notify the veterinary staff that your dog has a cough, as they may want to examine her in your car, do a home visit, or perform her examination in an isolated room to prevent cross infection.

In general, if your dog has a cough we recommend using the Voyce Symptom Checker to give you a sense of urgency.  A cough of greater than 3 days, or any cough producing phlegm (green or yellow) or blood, should be evaluated by a veterinarian.

If your dog has a cough, please do not attend dog parks or social events.  Any dog with a fever or lethargy should not socialize with other dogs due to risk for spreading disease.

At Voyce, we are here to support you and your dog.  We will post additional updates as they become available.


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Posted on Apr 16, 2015 by VOYCE Health
Vets & Experts