Canine flu is spreading. In April, the dog flu – known as H3N2 – made headlines when it sickened over a thousand dogs in the Chicago area. Now however, the strain is onsetting across the country, with cases popping up in Alabama, California, Michigan, New Jersey, Texas, Massachusetts, Iowa, Indiana, New York and Wisconsin.
Writes CNN: “As new cases of canine influenza spread across several states, veterinarians are urging vigilance after hundreds of dogs contracted the virus. Last month, more than 1,000 pooches got dog flu in Chicago, while one in the Atlanta area and another one in Ohio tested positive this week.”
The Ohio dog that contracted the flu, a 13-week-old West Highland white terrier, is expected to make a recovery. “I’m still very hopeful that she’ll make a complete recovery,” commented veterinarian Jodi Houser, who is treating the dog. The terrier tested positive for H3N2 on May 15. Houser thinks additional dogs will turn up infected.
Fortunately, most dogs do recover. The mortality rate is relatively low – around two or three percent – and despite the respiratory virus being highly contagious to other dogs, it is not transferable to humans. Pet owners can spread the virus however to other dogs.
In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated: “Two canine influenza viruses have been identified worldwide: an influenza A H3N8 virus and an influenza A H3N2 virus. No human infections with either of these canine influenza viruses have ever been reported.”
According to the CDC, signs of dog flu infection include “cough, runny nose and fever, but not all dogs will show signs of illness. The severity of illness associated with dog flu in dogs can range from no signs to severe illness resulting in pneumonia and sometimes death in dogs… Almost all dogs can be susceptible to infection with canine influenza viruses, and illness tends to spread among dogs housed in kennels and shelters.”
Other symptoms include nasal discharge, lethargy and a decreased appetite.
Dogs easily spread the virus to one another via nose to nose contact between dogs. As individuals travel with infected dogs, they bring the flu virus back to their state with them. Just like any viral illness, contact is key to its spread – like individuals sneezing on one another in packed areas.
Very young and senior dogs are at higher risk. A vaccine for a previous strain is available, though its effectiveness on H3N2 has yet to be measured. Dog owners are encouraged to keep their pets at home, isolated from other dogs, and contact their veterinarian if they suspect their pet has the canine flu.