Canine Influenza – What is it and what should we do?
Dr. Jean M. Oberg MS,DVM
Canine influenza is the dog flu and is a highly contagious infection affecting mostly dogs and some cats. There are two strains of the virus, H3N8 and H3N2. Canine H3N8 was first identified in Florida in 2004 in racing greyhounds and this strain was thought to have started in horses and it was thought to have jumped from horses to dogs. Canine H3N2 was first identified in the United States in March 2015 following an outbreak of respiratory illness of dogs in the Chicago Area. May 30, 2017 the Department of Agriculture and Consumer services learned from University of Florida that multiple cases of H3N2 influenza, a respiratory disease, entered our state of Florida. As of June 16, 2017 the college confirmed that 21 dogs, in its care, tested positive for the dog flu.
These cases originated in Perry, GA and Deland, Florida. This sent chilling alarms to all veterinarians in the state of Florida because we were all well aware what the last two outbreaks caused in 2004 and 2015 and wanted to prevent this. However, with dogs going everywhere with us and everyone traveling and going all over the state, this article will inform you of the dangers. It will also show you that transmission is pretty easy and outbreak may be imminent. Florida and Georgia was first to diagnose cases and to date, we can add several other states to the list: North and South Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Louisiana, and Illinois
Since we as veterinarians are not required to report cases, and there is no central database, it is possible that this disease is underestimated. Therefore, there might be many cases out there that we simply are unaware of. Since this is a highly contagious disease, it is highly recommended that pets get vaccinated as soon as possible.
To date, there is no evidence of transmission from dogs to humans. There has not been one case reported of human infection with a canine influenza virus. However, in dogs, the signs of illness are very similar to “our” flu-like symptoms which include cough, runny nose, fever, lethargy, eye discharge and reduced appetite. But, not all dogs show signs of illness and can be active “carriers.” However, as mild as this sounds, some pets can develop secondary bacterial infections which lead to more serious illness and pneumonia and as high as 8% might die due to these secondary infections.
This outbreak was believed to have started from dogs showing in two locations. First in Perry, Georgia and then followed by a dog show in Deland, Florida. Transmission was spread by respiratory secretions like coughing and sneezing from infected dogs. You also can come in contact with the disease through contaminated objects and the virus is believed to be viable on surfaces up to 48 hours and clothing for 24 hours and hands for 12 hours, so you can see this disease can spread easily between dogs. This disease can also have a very long incubation period, of up to 21 days and therefore your dogs can be at risk going to dog shows, kennels, dog parks, day care, groomers and even your vet. Because a “healthy pet” can sometimes be incubating the disease and helping spread disease before showing symptoms, preventative measures are our best medicine.
If your dog shows any signs and you are wondering if your pet might have the disease, your veterinarian can send in a test that can be done very easily from your dog’s nasal secretions. He or she can also test for several respiratory viruses for around $205.00. However, this disease can easily be prevented with a simple 2 part vaccination. The first vaccine is given and then again two weeks later. In about 3-4 weeks your pet will be protected from both the H3N8 and H3N2 infection. The cost of the vaccine varies from hospital to hospital but our vaccination cost is $45.00 each.
If your dog gets this disease the patient will be treated mostly by supportive care. The milder form includes broad spectrum antibiotics and must include the pet being well hydrated. Some may require IV fluids because they will not eat or drink. Those that acquire the more severe form of the disease like secondary pneumonia may have to be hospitalized in an isolation area for an extended duration of time. Some may also die due to complications.
Rather than wait for a crisis to happen, let’s prevent it from spreading. It will take upwards of three weeks for your pet to be protected therefore it would be important to schedule an appointment with a veterinarian, and they can recommend if the vaccine is appropriate for your pet.
This article was written by Jean M. Oberg MS,DVM
Past president of the Palm Beach Veterinary Society, LLC
My animal Vet Mobile Service, LLC
11320 Fortune Circle G-2
Wellington, Florida 33414