The Dog Flu FLEW…again!!!

Fact sheet about Canine Influenza Virus

by Taryn McDonald, DVM

We’ve heard a lot of news in the last few years about the new strain of dog flu that surprised us all in Chicago and Georgia the 2015.  There were over 100 confirmed cases in Georgia in a one-month time span from May to June of 2015, with 5 of those cases diagnosed in our hospital.  In May of 2017, there was another outbreak of the H3N2 strain of Canine Influenza at a dog show in Perry, Georgia.  Unfortunately, all these dogs then brought back the contagion to their home cities and now it has spread throughout Georgia and other states as well.  There have been numerous confirmed cases of the H3N2 strain in this area and surrounding counties.  This begs the questions, “Do I need to be worried about my pooch? Do I need to vaccinate? What are we going to do about this?” With this information, we hope to inform you about the newest strain of dog flu, which pups are most at risk, and how we can reduce that risk as much as possible.

What is dog flu? Who can get it?

Dog fluDog flu is caused by a virus called CIV (Canine Influenza Virus) that cannot be spread to people. Much like in people, however, there are strains of CIV named with letters and numbers to tell them apart. The strain that has been present for several years is named H3N8 while the newest strain is H3N2. This is important to note when we talk about vaccinating later in this article.

Currently, a majority of dogs exposed to the virus, regardless of age, sex, or breed, will become infected.  Up to 80% of exposed dogs will become infected with CIV and dogs will begin showing signs of flu-like sickness within a few weeks.  Dogs who go to boarding, day care, dog parks or who have contact with other dogs through a fence or even go on neighborhood walks are at higher risk of getting the flu.  Some of our diagnosed patients in 2015 were presumed to have been infected on a walk through their suburban neighborhood.


How is K9 flu spread?

As you know, the higher number of people or animals in an area, the more likely someone is sick!  Boarding facilities, day care, dog parks, etc. put many dogs together with many different travel and social histories, which makes the possibility that someone is sick pretty darn high. Did you know that a dog sneeze can travel 20 feet?  With CIV being spread from respiratory secretions like coughs, snot, and sneezes, it makes it pretty easy to spread the flu! The virus can even be spread in the air and oDog flu 2n things like bowls, kennels, leashes and our clothing!  As previously noted, it can also live on grass, concrete and dirt. The influenza virus can survive on these surfaces for up to a few days, so it is very possible that your dog can become infected even without direct contract with another dog.


What are the signs and how do we treat K9 flu?

If your pup is feeling under the weather and is more tired than usual, sneezes, coughs, has discharge from the eyes and/or nose, loses his or her appetite, and has a fever, we will recommend testing for CIV. Testing involves a swab of the back of your pooch’s throat much like a strep test and results should be back in about a week. In the meantime, we will recommend that you keep your dog at home to rest with no visitors of the dog variety. If any people come over, be sure to tell them to wash their hands and have limited contact with your pet should they have dogs of their own.

Dog flu 3Illness can last anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks! The most important thing you can do is keep him or her calm with plenty of fluids, and give any medications we have given to you as directed.  Just as in people, there is no specific treatment for the flu, only management of the symptoms.  Occasionally, sickness from the Dog Flu can cause other infections or problems like pneumonia because of the way it affects their immune systems. If you feel your pet is still not feeling well or is feeling worse after his or her visit, please call us! We may need to check for more serious signs that can develop and may need to give injectable medications or fluids in our office to give a kick-start to the recovery process! The good news is that CIV is not generally considered fatal and if we let them have plenty of rest and are vigilant about hydration and other signs, they recover just like we do when we get the flu.


 How can we reduce the risk of my dog getting Canine Influenza Virus?

Remember those strains mentioned earlier? The old strain, H3N8, has had a vaccine out for several years and many of our patients have been fully vaccinated for this strain. The Dog flu 4strain that is involved in the current outbreak, H3N2, now has a vaccination as well to protect against this most current strain.  The vaccine will need to be given once, and then given again to “booster” it in 2-3 weeks so the immune system can build up a good defense. Finishing the booster BEFORE any boarding is best, but if you can’t, starting the vaccine before your pet goes off to camp can help.  For those dogs who have previously had the H3N8 vaccination, then we will only recommend vaccination and booster for the H3N2 strain.  If your dog has never had the H3N8 vaccination, then we will recommend initial vaccination and boosters of both strains.  If all of this information seems overwhelming, don’t worry, we will help guide you through the correct decision making for your puppy!   If you are wondering why we still recommend vaccination for the H3N8 strain, it is because we never know when another outbreak of either strain can occur and we want our patients to be as protected against preventable diseases as possible!!!

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