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Canine Parainfluenza or Race Flu

Canine parainfluenza is also known as Greyhound disease or Race Flu because it spreads so quickly amongst dogs who are together in close quarters like in kennels or a racing track. Despite its alternative names it is not specific to Grey hounds race track dogs, any dog can get it. It is actually a newer communicable disease in dogs having mutated and jumped species from a strain that affected just horses. It is just a dog illness at the moment, it cannot be passed on to the dog's owners or other pets. Canine parainfluenza is actually one part of another infectious dog condition, kennel cough. Here is information on what puts dogs more at risk, symptoms to look for and advice on treatment.

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How is it Transmitted?

Race flu is caused by a virus and can be transmitted easily via several means such as contact with an infected dog, contact with infected bedding or bowls and so on. It is passed on in the airborne particles when an infected dog sneezes or coughs. Even after a dog has recovered from it they can still be contagious and pass it on to other dogs for another two weeks. Therefore isolation is an important part of treatment.

Places where your dog could pick it up include;

Dog parks

Kennels

Groomers

Doggy hotels

Training clubs

Race tracks

Dog shows

Adoption shelters

Canine Parainfluenza Symptoms

There are a range of symptoms a dog might experience when infected with this virus and not all show up. If your dog has some of or a combination of any of the following it is a good idea to take him to a vet for a confirmed diagnosis.

Fever/high temperature

Nasal discharge

Hacking, dry cough that is persistent and worse after exercise

Runny nose

Depression

Loss of appetite

Inflammation of the eyes

Sneezing

Weeping eyes

Conjunctivitis

Lethargy

At The Vet's

Should you see signs that your dog may have canine parainfluenza you should have them checked out by a vet as soon as you can. Your vet will talk to you about his medical history, may ask about contact with other dogs, and will do a physical exam. Sometimes when there is just a dry hacking cough it is hard to tell whether the dog has parainfluenza or whether it is just kennel cough. Both are very contagious but canine parainfluenza is a more serious condition.

Tests that may be done to reach a diagnosis include blood tests, x-ray of the chest to check for pneumonia and more. A quick diagnosis is important not just for the sake of your dog getting the right treatment but also because a quarantine may be needed to stop the virus from spreading.

Treatment Options

Treatment and quarantine are important with the virus that causes canine parainfluenza. Most dogs with treatment and recovery time make a full recovery but that is not all dogs. The last thing anyone wants is for your dog to pass the virus to another dog who is weaker and not able to fight it.

Antibiotics are given to the dog in case there is any bacterial infection along with the virus. For the virus itself antiviral therapy may be used to give the body a chance to heal itself. IV fluid may be given to stop dehydration and if the cough is causing a lot of pain your dog painkillers and cough suppressants may be used. Treatment really varies depending on how seriously the dog is affected, how healthy the dog was otherwise and whether there are secondary infections to be worried about. Some dogs who are healthy and strong can recover from it by themselves without intervention but they are contagious still and may spread it to other dogs who not as strong.

Recovering From The Parainfluenza Virus

While as mentioned some dogs can recover by themselves it is not recommended to treat him yourself at home for a couple of reasons. The main reason is it is far easier keeping a dog in quarantine conditions at the hospital then in your home. Having your dog at home puts the risk of spreading the virus a lot higher. Secondly in case things take a turn for the worse or your dog is in a lot of discomfort when they are in a hospital there are medical professionals who can help them.

Recovery time and how effective the treatment is depends on your dog. If a dog has persistent coughing over a long period this can cause damage to the lungs and affect his respiration.

When your dog comes home from treatment here are some tips on their recovery with you;

Keep him away from other dogs for the treatment and at least a week after

Allow your dog limited exercise and encourage him to rest

If his throat still gets irritated easily feed him soft food only

Make sure he has fresh water and encourage him to drink often to stay hydrated

Put a humidifier in the room where he is resting

Keep chemical fumes away from him

Keep the house calm, no loud noises or excitement

Take off his collar so his throat is free

Follow your vet's instructions on any treatments and care

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Prevention

There is a vaccination you can ask for for canine parainfluenza but it is not one that is administered as standard so you have to specifically ask for it if you feel he is more at risk. Talk with your vet about why you feel it may be needed and he or she can offer their advice. At the same time it may be an idea to also get the vaccination against Bordetella bronchiseptica the bacteria side that causes kennel cough. Apart from that the only thing you can do is make sure places like the groomers and kennels keep a high level of hygiene and of course if you know a dog for example in your training class or dog shows has it, avoid contact.