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Canine Flu is Sweeping the Nation

The outbreak of strain H3N2 was discovered in Chicago in March 2015, and rapidly moved throughout the Midwest. Veterinary experts are bracing for an epidemic, stating that it is just a matter of time before the new dog flu presents itself in all states. For this reason, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is closely monitoring its proliferation and researchers are working diligently to find a vaccine.

“The more common canine virus, H3N8, has a vaccine, but the new H3N2 strain is not responding to it,” according to Dr. Bloss of Cheyenne Mountain Animal Hospital. “No one knows exactly what makes it more pathogenic. It is highly contagious and spreads rapidly.” Putting that into perspective, she referenced a report indicating if one dog is infected in a kennel with 100 dogs, 50 will be sick within two days, adding that no other pathogen travels that explosively in a group of dogs.

The CDC suspects the virus to have been imported via an infected dog from South Korea, with its closest linkage to avian influenza found in Asia. Currently there are no requirements for respiratory testing or vaccines when dogs are imported from another country. For example, dogs on the show circuit are a risk because they intermingle with dogs from other countries.

The severity of illness associated with canine flu can range from no signs to extreme conditions resulting in pneumonia and sometimes death. Both respiratory viruses, H3N8 and H3N2, cause loss of appetite, coughing, nasal discharge and lethargy. The hallmark of the new CIV strain, said Dr. Bloss, is its scope: “It hits harder, has a much higher fever, and takes longer to recover.”

 Almost all dogs are susceptible to canine flu infection with outbreaks being a greater concern where dogs are in higher concentration and close contact such as shelters, kennels, dog parks, day care and boarding facilities. The Canine Influenza Viruses do not transfer to humans.

If quickly diagnosed and treated, the fatality rate associated with CIV is quite low. Deaths are usually caused by secondary complications, such as Bronchopneumonia. Therefore, the CDC says that it is very important for dogs suspected of having CIV to see a veterinarian, as tests are available to determine if the dog is infected.

Dr. Bloss advises to be aware of CIV and its symptoms, but not overly hysterical. “If there is an outbreak in our area, plans are in place, with an isolation protocol that most veterinary clinics routinely perform to disinfect for kennel cough cases. The Humane Society would take measures like closing their adoptions and receiving, for instance.” 

Experts recommend to simply keep a watchful eye on your dog. Should your pet become infected with CIV, immediately disinfect with an antiviral product like Lysol. (Note: antibacterial products have no effect according to Dr. Bloss.) To soothe your dog, professionals suggest supportive care such as good nutrition and supplements to raise immunity, a warm, quiet and cozy spot to rest while the condition runs its course. Even without having CIV, dogs would welcome this prescription!