The latest strain of the canine influenza virus, also known as “dog flu”, was first identified in Chicago, IL in the spring of 2015. More than 1,000 cases were eventually diagnosed in Illinois and surrounding states, with six fatalities.
After the initial outbreak, things seemed to have quieted down until recently, when dog flu cases were reported in more than 30 states, including Georgia, New York, Texas, Iowa, and California. The recent resurgence of canine influenza appears to have come from two dog shows (one in Florida, one in Georgia), and has continued to spread across the country.
What Is Canine Influenza?
Canine influenza is a highly contagious respiratory infection that affects dogs, and sometimes cats. The influenza virus is known for its ability to adapt to its surroundings by giving rise to new strains that can affect different species. Both of the canine influenza strains currently identified in the United States (H3N8 and H3N2) are thought to have originally infected horses and birds, respectively.
Know Thy Enemy
The symptoms of canine influenza include:
- Dry, hacking cough or moist-sounding cough
- Discharge from the nose or eyes
- Loss of appetite
- Fever (normal temperature for dogs is 101-102 F)
If you suspect your dog has canine influenza, separate him or her from other pets and give us a call right away. Because there is no cure for canine influenza, treatment for the disease is largely supportive and may consist of fluid and electrolyte replacement, pain relief medication, and prevention of secondary infections.
Evaluating the Risk
Dogs who spend time in boarding kennels, grooming salons, doggie daycare facilities, dog parks or playgroups, dog shows, or any other areas where dogs congregate are at the highest risk of contracting canine influenza.
It’s important to understand that even if your dog doesn’t frequently come into contact with other dogs, he or she is still at risk. Because canine influenza is a relatively new disease in the U.S., most dogs haven’t been exposed before and therefore haven’t had the chance to develop immunity to the virus. All dogs, regardless of age or breed, can potentially contract the disease.
All of this information may sound frightening for pet owners, but there’s no need to panic. For the most part, canine influenza does not cause serious complications in dogs, and most will completely recover with proper treatment. Special care should still be taken to protect your dog from infection, especially if he or she is older, very young, or immunocompromised.
- Vaccination is your dog’s best protection against either strain of canine influenza. Your veterinarian will be happy to discuss the current vaccine options available to your pet.
- Before putting your dog in a boarding kennel, daycare facility, dog show, etc., check to make sure that respiratory disease hasn’t been a problem there, and that proper infection control techniques are practiced.
- Maintain good sanitation at home in the form of hand washing and regular washing of your pet’s food and water bowls, toys, bedding, and other belongings.
The health and safety of our patients and pet services guests is our top priority at Union Lake Veterinary Hospital, which is why we are strongly recommending that all pets that come in for boarding, grooming, and daycare services be vaccinated against H3N2 and H3N8.