Canine Influenza or Dog Flu Update
Canine influenza (also known as dog flu) is a contagious respiratory disease caused by Type A influenza viruses that infect dogs. There has been a recent epidemic of canine flu virus that has spread very fast in Chicago. As we are quite close to Chicago and worry about our snorting little squishy face Kilo the Pug, we attended a very informative Google+ Hangout with Jill Lopez, DVM, from Merck Animal Health, and Steve Dale, CABC, hosted by Yvonne DiVita of BlogPaws.
See below some basic information from the CDC website and the answers to some of the questions we all had:
What is Canine Influenza and Where did it come from?
There are at least two different Type A Canine Influenza or dog flu viruses: one is an H3N8 virus and the other is an H3N2 virus.
Canine influenza H3N8 virus is believed to have originated in horses, has spread to dogs, and can now spread between dogs. The H3N8 equine influenza (horse flu) virus has been known to exist in horses for more than 40 years. In 2004, the first cases in dogs (initially greyhounds) were reported in the United States. Scientists believe this virus jumped species and has adapted to cause illness in dogs, especially those housed in groups like kennels and shelters. It is now considered a dog-specific H3N8 virus. This virus is endemic in certain areas like Colorado, New Jersey, Florida and New York apparently.
The H3N2 canine influenza virus is an avian flu virus that is believed to have adapted to infect dogs. This virus is different from human seasonal H3N2 viruses. Canine influenza A H3N2 virus was first detected in dogs in South Korea in 2007. This virus has since been reported in China and Thailand. H3N2 canine influenza has reportedly infected some cats as well as dogs. It was first detected in the United States in April 2015 and the virus is now affecting dogs in Chicago and certain other areas.
What are signs of canine influenza infection in dogs?
The signs of this illness in dogs is coughing, runny nose, and fever, but not all dogs will show signs of illness (est 25% will not). The severity of illness associated with canine flu in dogs can range from no signs to severe illness resulting in pneumonia and sometimes death. Testing to confirm canine influenza virus infection in dogs is available.
Is this flu virus deadly?
The percentage of dogs infected with this disease that die is very small. Severe illness is characterized by the onset of pneumonia. This is a relatively new cause of disease in dogs and nearly all dogs are susceptible to infection.
What is the Treatment for the Dog Flu Virus?
If your dog shows any symptoms or is lethargic, visit your veterinarian so they can evaluate your dog and recommend an appropriate course of treatment. Treatment largely consists of supportive care. This care may include medication to make your dog more comfortable and fluids to ensure that your dog remains well-hydrated. Broad spectrum antibiotics may be prescribed by your veterinarian if a secondary bacterial infection is suspected.
How do Dogs Catch the Virus?
This flu is highly contagious between dogs. Nobody knows exactly the incubation period but many dogs are contagious before they show any symptoms. Canine flu can spread to other dogs by direct contact with aerosolized respiratory secretions or saliva (coughing, drool and sneezing) from infected dogs, by uninfected dogs coming into contact with contaminated objects, and by moving contaminated objects or materials between infected and uninfected dogs. Therefore, dog owners whose dogs are coughing or showing other signs of respiratory disease should not expose their dog to other dogs. Clothing, equipment, surfaces, and hands should be cleaned and disinfected after exposure to dogs showing signs of respiratory disease. Luckily, the virus is easily killed by common disinfectants according to Dr Lopez, DVM. Communal water sources and toys should be avoided. If you live in an area with multiple cases, you may want to avoid taking your dog to social activities and dog parks, kennels, day care, dog facilities, competitions, groomers etc.
How to prevent infection?
There is an approved vaccine to protect dogs against canine influenza A H3N8 available in the United States. It is still unknown if this vaccine will be effective and cross vaccinate against H3N2. However it may help against pneumonia which can be deadly. Consult with your veterinarian concerning vaccination. Avoid situations described above.
Can canine influenza viruses infect humans?
According to the CDC “To date, there is no evidence of transmission of canine influenza viruses from dogs to people and there has not been a single reported case of human infection with a canine influenza virus. However, influenza viruses are constantly changing and it is possible for a virus to change so that it could infect humans and spread easily between humans. In general, canine influenza viruses are considered to pose a low threat to humans.”
Check out these great resources if you have further questions:
Influenza A Virus (H3N8) in Dogs with Respiratory Disease, Florida
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