Canine Flu Updates...Is Your Pet Affected?
In several areas across the US, including Detroit and Massachusetts, the H3N2 Canine Influenza virus is making headlines. Even here in Central Indiana, where we have NOT seen a confirmed case of the bug, news headlines have worried owners. So, what's the latest on this virus?
Let's take a step back to 2004 when a group of racing greyhounds were diagnosed with a novel upper respiratory infection. This virus, described as H3N8 Canine Influenza Virus (CIV), had jumped from horses to dogs and represented a brand new disease in our dog population. While this virus was more of a nuisance than anything and generally not fatal, the fact that all of our dogs were naive to this virus meant that close to 100% of canine pets would develop the disease if exposed. To date, all but four states have seen confirmed H3N8 cases within their borders.
Fast forward to 2015...an serious upper respiratory disease outbreak in Chicago closed several boarding facilities, sickened thousands of dogs and caused about a dozen canine deaths. Experts researching the outbreak found that this was a NEW strain of canine flu, named H3N2. Further studies found that the H3N2 version of the dog flu seemed to last longer, was more contagious and could possibly cause more fatalities. It has been reported that asymptomatic dogs can transmit the virus up to 20 feet!
Ever since that 2015 outbreak, the H3N2 virus has been in the news. Originally, veterinarians expected the virus to spread quickly across the US, but reality has shown that the outbreaks seem to pop up, cause a lot of local concern, but then die back down just as quickly. The anticipated cross country spread has not truly occurred and this leads to confusion about who should be vaccinating for the disease and even when. This infographic from Cornell university helps show just how "local" the outbreaks have been since 2015.
Canine flu is not a "reportable" disease in all states, like rabies, so there is not a consistent database where someone can go and find ALL of the cases. Additionally, since many upper respiratory cases exhibit similar symptoms and respond to similar treatments, testing to determine WHAT has caused the dog's sneezing, sniffling and runny nose is often not done.
Which then leads to our original question...is the dog flu an issue for YOU in your local area?
Let's review our facts...we know that many dogs are susceptible to the dog flu as it is a new
disease and most pets have not received vaccination for it. But, we also know from our map linked above that the H3N2 strain seems to be very localized, especially in Illinois, California, Georgia and Kentucky.
We know that dogs who frequent boarding kennels, grooming salons, doggie daycare and dog parks are at higher risk, along with dogs in shelter situations. We have an effective vaccination for both strains of canine flu, but the vaccine will not completely stop the disease...rather, the symptoms are more mild and there is less transmission of the virus.
The bottom line is that you need to chat with your pets' veterinarian to find out if cases have been confirmed, not just suspected, locally. If your pet is in the risk groups above, ask your veterinarian about his or her thoughts on vaccination. As we have started saying around here...Be Aware, but Don't Be Scared!! Your thoughts? Are you vaccinating for this disease? Worried about it? Experienced it??