Pet owners should be aware of a recent outbreak in canine influenza cases. The SAGE Emergency team has seen several cases of canine influenza over the last several days, with the majority of cases being in the South Bay. Many of these cases can be linked to time spent in a boarding facility or dog day care, says Dr. Christine Wong, DVM, DACVECC.

Here are a few answers to the most frequently asked questions about this pesky bug.

What is canine influenza?

Canine influenza is a contagious viral infection that is spread through contact with other dogs, generally at boarding facilities, dog day care centers and other environments where dogs are in close quarters. There are two major strains of canine influenza, H3N8 and H3N2. There is no evidence that humans can contract canine influenza from their dogs. However, cats have been documented to contract H3N2 in shelter environments. We have not seen any cases in cats with this recent outbreak.

How do I know my dog has canine influenza?

Veterinarians look for clinical signs, but infection can only be confirmed with tests. Testing is simple and involves obtaining a sample with a sterile cotton swab underneath the eyelid and in the back of the throat.

Can I vaccinate my dog for canine influenza?

Yes, though it is not generally included in routine vaccination packages, Dr. Wong says.

The trouble is, even dogs who are vaccinated for canine influenza can still contract the illness. “Just like with humans, you can get a flu shot, but that doesn’t mean you won’t catch the flu,” Dr. Wong says. “The virus can mutate and your pet may still be at risk of being sick. To minimize risk, it is best to avoid crowded dog facilities during an outbreak. ”

Vaccinations are available for the two major types of canine influenza, H3N8 and H3N2. These vaccines are only recommended for healthy dogs at risk (for example, those in boarding facilities, dog day care centers and shelters). A booster is recommended and it may take several weeks for immunity to develop, so it is important to plan accordingly.

What are the signs of canine influenza?

Clinical signs include dry cough, lethargy, and lack of appetite, Dr. Wong says. Some of the pets she has seen this season also have been vomiting. Dogs with canine influenza are at risk of developing secondary bacterial pneumonia, which may be observed as a wet, productive cough and difficulty breathing. The virus may take 5 to 7 days to run its course, but a cough may persist for up to a month.

How do you treat canine influenza?

If you have concerns about your pet contracting canine influenza, it’s best to seek veterinary advice.

Because it is a viral infection, veterinarians do not recommend antibiotics to treat it. Dr. Wong advises resting at home, letting the virus run its course, and treating the clinical signs. For example, she has been prescribing a cough suppressant for patients with an unrelenting cough. For wet coughs (where fluid emerges while coughing, or mucus fluttering can be heard with the cough) or for respiratory problems, she advises pet owners see a veterinarian.

Do you recommend any online resources?

The American Veterinary Medical Association provides detailed information about canine influenza.

https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Reference/Pages/Canine-Influenza-Backgrounder.aspx