Can Your Dog Get the Flu?
The short answer is “yes” and there is a widespread outbreak in the Southeast. However, dog owners around the country should be on alert as reports of this virus were confirmed in LA a few months earlier.
Canine influenza is highly contagious between dogs, they can pass it among themselves from contaminated objects like toys, water bowls, and leashes, as well as direct contact. Additionally, people can transmit it between dogs, though there’s no evidence that people can contract it.
There are two strains of this virus, H3N2 which is related to the 2015 canine influenza outbreak in Chicago and H3N8 which is identified in Florida and several other Southeastern states.
Who’s at Risk?
Earlier this month, dogs from two dog shows in Leland, Florida, and Perry, Georgia were diagnosed with the disease and University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine officials confirmed the outbreak of the canine influenza A virus.
According to Veterinary News, “The American Kennel Club (AKC) has issued a statement to all dog show exhibitors in the southeast warning that there are reports of sick dogs from Georgia and Florida dog shows. The AKC is recommending that if a dog seems at all ill, it should not be exposed to other dogs and should see a veterinarian concerning the possibility of influenza. The North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association is also warning dog show participants about the outbreak because the dog show schedule rotation may place potentially exposed dogs in their state next.”
It’s thought that at least 600 dogs have been affected and there are two confirmed deaths in N.C. according to the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services.
Of course, it’s not only dog show participants at risk but those who associate with them and any dog in a confined space like pet shelters, groomers, doggie daycare, etc.
Worse, a dog doesn’t have to exhibit the symptoms to infect another dog because it can take 2-4 days for the symptoms to show though they still “shed virus” via their nasal secretions. Most dogs who are exposed to the virus will contract it unless they’ve been vaccinated against it.
Symptoms of canine influenza include coughing, sneezing, lethargy, fever, and loss of appetite. If you suspect your dog has been exposed, please make an appointment with your veterinarian for an assessment.
Prevention of Canine Influenza
As veterinarians, we’re closely following this virus and we recommend the following protocol to protect your dog.
1—Talk to your veterinarian about the canine influenza vaccine. In a release from Merck Animal Health, “Dogs at risk should be vaccinated at least yearly with both influenza strains, H3N8 and H3N2,” says Ronald Schultz, Ph.D., professor of pathobiological sciences at the University Of Wisconsin School Of Veterinary Medicine.”
High-risk dogs include those who attend dog shows, boarding facilities and doggy day care.
2—Disinfect crates, bedding, toys, and anything else that comes in contact with your pet. Germs can survive for 24 hours on hard surfaces so you’ll want to clean everything your pet touches.
3—Wash your hands between dogs. While humans are not able to contract the virus from the dogs, you can spread it from one dog to another.
4 – Isolate infected dogs for 21 days to ensure the disease is passed. After the Chicago outbreak, tests confirmed that some dogs were still carrying the virus for up to 21 days after diagnosis.
How Serious is This?
The severity of canine influenza varies from dog to dog. Some will show few symptoms while others are at risk for pneumonia.
This current outbreak is concentrated in the Southeast, though that doesn’t mean it will stay there. Your best course of action is to take the precautions of cleaning everything that comes in contact with your pet, isolating your dog from other dogs, and consulting with your veterinarian.