Canine influenza had received media attention recently and many pet owners have questions. Previously, this was a disease that had not affected the Midwest states, though in the past month, 34 cases have been confirmed in the Chicago area. To date, we have had five cases in Minnesota.

The following information is provided courtesy of Veterinary Information Network: VP Client Information Sheets:

Influenza A virus in dogs (canine influenza virus, CIV, canine flu) is a respiratory tract disease that mimics bordetellosis (Bordetella bronchiseptica infection, kennel cough, infectious tracheobronchitis). However, unlike many cases of bordetellosis, the dog needs veterinary care.

Canine influenza is caused by a highly contagious virus that was identified in Florida in 2005 when it caused several severe respiratory outbreaks in racing greyhounds. The disease appears to occur most frequently in high-density dog populations: dogs who are housed with numerous other dogs in places such as shelters, boarding facilities, breeding kennels, pet stores, rescue groups, dog shows, and greyhound racing tracks. The disease is thought to have originated as a mutation of an influenza strain that affects horses and is not related to typical human influenza strains or the avian flu.

Disease Description

The virus is efficiently spread between dogs by aerosol, direct transmission, and fomite transmission of respiratory secretions (snot). A fomite is an object capable of carrying the organism; common fomites include toys, chew toys, bedding, etc. The actual virus persists for less than one week in the environment and is easily killed with bleach and other common disinfectants. No known transmission to humans has occurred.

There does not appear to be a carrier state of the disease, and no one knows how long immunity lasts after natural exposure. Influenza viruses can change over time, allowing them to evade host defenses, but whether this will happen with canine influenza is difficult to determine. All previously unexposed dogs are susceptible, regardless of age, sex, breed, or vaccination status, but the disease is more likely to become clinically apparent in dogs that are housed in populations such as animal shelters, boarding facilities or day care settings.

Clinical Signs

After infection, there is a 2-5 day incubation period. Nasal virus shedding peaks during this time. Clinical signs generally do not become apparent until day 5-7 and in most cases shedding wanes by 7-10 days after infection. Clinical signs are generally very mild to inapparent during peak viral shedding. A soft, moist, sometimes-productive cough is seen. The cough often persists for several weeks, even with appropriate therapy. Dogs may lose their appetite, develop a fever, and produce a pus-like nasal discharge. Up to 10% of dogs may develop a more severe form of illness, with high fever, lethargy (tiredness), rapid breathing, and secondary bronchopneumonia. The fatality rate related to pneumonia/bronchopneumonia is reported to be around 5-8% in selected high-risk populations. Acute, fatal hemorrhagic pneumonia tends to occur only in greyhounds. After day five, approximately 10-20% of affected dogs are have no symptoms but are still shedding infectious virus.

Distinguishing CIV from other causes of acute respiratory disease based on clinical signs can be difficult.


Diagnosis includes physical examination, blood tests looking for antibodies to the disease, virus isolation, and thoracic radiographs.


  • Milder cases are often self-limiting, and may require only isolating the dog and providing supportive care, such as nutrition, rest, and prevention of dehydration.
  • With more severe signs, treatment is aimed at preventing secondary infection and is also largely supportive. Fluid support is important. Antimicrobials that target secondary bacterial infections are needed, and are ideally chosen based upon culture and sensitivity tests if possible.
  • It is generally recommended to not use human antiviral drugs. They require use early in the course of influenza infection when it is unlikely that disease will even have been noticed; there are no efficacy or safety studies done on animals; and there are potential resistance mechanisms that could develop with implications for human medicine.

Preventive Measures

Control of CIV relies primarily on reducing the spread of virus between dogs. Obviously, the best way to prevent widespread CIV is to prevent individual animal exposure. This is difficult, for several reasons. CIV is spread in part through aerosolized droplets and thus is difficult to contain. Also, some dogs may show obvious clinical signs while others can appear healthy but are still shedding infectious organisms.

Dogs that are in high risk categories, such as those scheduled for boarding or other group events, should be vaccinated against Bordetella bronchiseptica, parainfluenza, and adenovirus-2 at least 2 weeks prior to boarding, and vaccinating for CIV should also be considered. Although vaccination may not prevent infection, it tends to reduce the severity and duration of the disease. Your veterinarian is the best judge of which preventive measures your dog may need in your particular situation.

A press release from Cornell University indicated that that the most recent cases were a different strain than what has been included in the vaccine (H3N8). This new strain has been identified as an H3N2 strain not previously detected in North America. It appears to have been introduced from Asia. You may learn more at: http://mediarelations.cornell.edu/2015/04/12/midwest-canine-influenza-outbreak-caused-by-new-strain-of-virus/.

If you travel with your dog to areas that have had recent cases of influenza infections, you may want to consider CIV vaccination. The vaccination series consists of a series of two vaccines separated by 3 weeks with annual revaccination recommended. A dog is not considered vaccinated until 7-10 days after the 2nd vaccine. Please be aware that the canine influenza vaccine will not prevent infection; it is labeled to reduce severity and duration of illness.

At this time, boarding facilities and dog day care facilities in the Twin Cities are not requiring vaccination.

Please contact us at (651) 645-2808 or group@stfrancisabh.com if you have any questions regarding this disease.

Open House: 25th Anniversary Celebration

St Francis Animal & Bird Hospital will host an Open House on Sunday, September 10th from 1-4 pm. You will have the opportunity to meet our doctors and staff and take a full tour of both facilities. Several educational stations will be set up throughout the clinics to showcase our preventative care, surgery, anesthesia, dentistry, laboratory, radiology, integrative services, and hospice/palliative care services. We will also have a special kids' station for kids to experience what it's like to be a veterinarian!

We'll have information available to learn more about Chiropractic for EveryBody, Cause for Paws, Dig It Dog Grooming, Veterinary Surgical Specialists, Sarah Beth Photography, Avian Suites, Care Credit, and more! In addition, we will have drawings for great prizes including gift certificates for services and products from St Francis; a 12 month supply of Frontline Plus; complimentary laboratory screening tests; dog, cat, and avian gift baskets; and many other special items.

We also hope that you will make a donation to benefit our local rescue group,Cause for Paws. If you've been looking for a special individual to add to your house, Cause for Paws will have information about cats that are currently up for adoption.

You will also have the opportunity to have a book signing by our very own author, Dr. Charlie Cosimini also known as Dr. Chuck. You may purchase his book in advance on Amazon or by clicking here. They will also be available during the Open House.

Toby, our mascot, will be there to greet everyone, but due to the small size of our clinic, he asks that you not bring pets of your own to the event. Again, due to our small size, for everyone's safety, we ask that you do not bring pets of your own to the event. Additional parking is available on the street and in the Cub Foods parking lot.

Please join us on Sunday, September 10th from 1-4 pm. If you have questions, you may contact us at (651) 645-2808.

We look forward to sharing both locations, St Francis Animal & Bird Hospital and St Francis Integrative Services, with each and every one of you! We thank you so much for your dedication to St Francis over the past 25 years!

Avian Foraging

In the wild, birds generally spend their time divided between resting, grooming, foraging, and social interactions with flock members. Most wild parrots, depending on the species, generally spend between 6 and 18 hours per day foraging for food. In contrast, most of our pet birds have food provided daily in a bowl. This type of feeding requires no creativity or thought and rarely requires more than 20-30 minutes to consume the meal. What does a bird do with all of that extra time? Unfortunately, if not given other methods to occupy the time, many birds develop abnormal behaviors associated with the other daily activities. This may include feather picking, skin mutilation, screaming, biting, or inappropriate pair bonding. Increasing the available foraging activities will enhance your bird’s life and may prevent these abnormal behaviors. If your bird is already exhibiting these abnormal behaviors, creating foraging opporutunities may help.

Foraging toys are toys that require some activity to find food. There are several avian pet stores that sell commercial foraging toys. It is important to choose toys that are an appropriate size and skill level for your bird. Foraging toys should initially be simple to solve as some birds will become frustrated if the toys are too difficult. Foot toys are great beginning foraging toys. These are small toys constructed of plastic, wood, cloth, or other material that can be placed in a feeding station or hung from the cage. These toys require the bird to unwrap the end, remove a cover, or manipulate the toy to access the food through holes in the sides. These are all excellent toys to leave in a cage when owners are gone for the day. As your bird becomes more experienced, more advanced toys can be offered. For more complicated toys, you may need to help your bird if they are becoming frustrated. All toys should be constructed from nontoxic, safe materials. Avoid toys that are breakable, contain lead or zinc, have fibrous synthetic materials such as yarn or nylon, or toys that contain openings that could trap a head or foot.

In addition to commercial foraging toys, inexpensive toys can be created at home using natural products such as untreated wood, paper, or clean PVC pipes. Simple foraging toys include food inside a crumpled paper cup, paper bag, or piece of paper. Foot toys can be created by placing food in untreated wood containers with covers that can be removed or with holes drilled in the side that allows extraction of small food items. A foraging cup or pan filled with large untreated wooden beads can be used to hide nuts or seeds, requiring your bird to dig through the inedible objects to find the food item. Hanging toys can be created as well. A food item wrapped in a piece of paper, spinach leaf, or corn husk can be hung in the cage, followed by more complicated toys such as a piece of wood with holes drilled in it containing food items or bamboo foraging toys hanging from various perches. Make sure that hanging toys are hung with safe material such as clean leather strips or untreated cotton rope.

News Briefs

Internet / Phone Service
On Wednesday, July 19th, Comcast will be performing service in our area and they anticipate that we will be intermittently without phone and internet service throughout the day. If you cannot reach us via phone, you may email us or send us a Facebook message as we will still have limited access to these avenues of communication.

Schedule Changes
This is a reminder that we will be closing early on Wednesday, September 27th and will have limited availability on Saturday, September 30th.

For after hours emergencies, contact the Animal Emergency & Referral Center at (651) 293-1800 (St Paul) or (651) 501-3766 (Oakdale).

Roseville Review Readers’ Choice Awards
Do you love St Francis? Please take a moment today to vote for St Francis Animal & Bird Hospital for Best Place for Pet Care in the Roseville Review Reader’s Choice Awards by clicking here. You must vote in 20 categories to enter. Voting deadline is Monday, July 17. We would be honored to have your vote!


Image credit:  TalyaPhoto | Shutterstock