What Do You NEED to Know About the Canine Flu?
By now, most people are at least somewhat aware of the dog flu, also known as canine influenza. We know you are probably concerned about the media reports of the flu and what you are seeing online at this point in time. Veterinarians do consider this an important situation for dog owners to hear about and understand in order to calm people’s fears and give the best possible advice.
The Canine influenza (CIV), or dog flu, is caused by an influenza A virus. Originally, a strain of the H3N8 canine influenza was identified in the U.S. dog population in 2004, but the more current outbreaks are caused by a virus considered closely related to Asian strains of influenza A H3N2 viruses. Although it does not infect people, it's highly contagious to other dogs and can occur year-round. Most dogs recover within 2-3 weeks; however, some fatal cases of pneumonia resulting from CIV have been reported.
The H3N2 strain of the virus was originally found during an outbreak of respiratory disease in Chicago during the early spring of 2015. Since then, this strain is now found in more than 30 states and only North Dakota, Nebraska, Hawaii, and Alaska have avoided any reported cases of H3N8 or H3N2. In the summer of 2017, outbreaks were seen in Florida, Texas, Kentucky and Minnesota and are often associated with recent dog shows or agility trials. This infographic has some great details!
Exposure to the virus comes from other dogs in situations such as boarding, dog parks, or other activities where contact with respiratory secretions may occur. And, it doesn't take "nose to nose" contact to spread the disease. This virus can probably travel about 15-20 feet in the air. In areas where the outbreak has occurred, veterinarians recommend temporarily limiting those activities that expose your dog to others.
If your dog is exhibiting any of the following signs, please contact your veterinarian immediately:
• coughing or labored breathing
• nasal or eye discharge
• reduced appetite
Don’t be surprised if your veterinarian or the veterinary team asks you to remain outside of the office until your dog can be evaluated. Many smaller hospitals and clinics may not have an isolation area or a way to keep an infected pet from transmitting the disease to others in the area. Overall, the virus is self-limiting and your pup is likely to recover. However, very young pets, geriatric pets or dogs with compromised immune systems are at risk for a more severe form of the disease and may need hospitalization.
It's also worth noting that the H3N2 virus has caused infection and respiratory illness in cats, so if your cat goes outside or socializes with cats who do, keep an eye out for these signs, as well.
The good news in all of this is that vaccinations are available and they do help protect pets from both the H3N8 and H3N2 strains. Your veterinarian can help you decide if your pet is considered “at risk” and if vaccination is advised in your area.
More information can be found at these trustworthy sites:
What do you think? Will you be taking your canine friend to visit his doctor for a dog flu vaccination? Let us know if you have questions about this emerging dog disease!