January 12, 2018
What is the H3N2 Canine Influenza Virus?
H3N2 is a very contagious influenza virus that infects dogs (the virus has affected cats too). It emerged in the United States in 2015 and has recently been reported in multiple states. As of recent, there are several dogs in the South Bay that have become ill. In total this virus has effected thousands of dogs in the past few years in more than 30 states. It has also effected a small amount of cats.
What are the symptoms?
H3N2 causes a respiratory infection which we refer to as dog flu. Common signs include sneezing, nasal discharge, coughing, lethargy and decreased appetite, symptoms can last for 2 weeks or more. Some dogs may have a more severe form of the illness that leads to pneumonia and requires in hospital care.
How can my dog get the flu?
The illness is spread by direct contact with infected dogs or contact with objects and surfaces that have also been contacted by infected dogs. Infected dogs can cough or sneeze and spread the virus up to 20 feet. The virus can survive in the environment for 24-48 hours, but can be easily killed with simple hand washing and laundering/washing objects. You can also carry the virus on your clothing by coming in direct contact with an infected dog.
My dog is healthy, can he/she still get the flu?
Most dogs do NOT have a natural immunity to the virus. This means ANY dog can be infected if they are exposed. Dogs at most risk are those that participate in social activities with other dogs. Trips to pet stores, dog parks, grooming facilities, dog shows, boarding kennels and day care centers pose an increased risk.
What should I do if my dog is showing signs of dog flu?
Your dog may have a respiratory infection caused by other respiratory viruses and not the Canine flu virus. This can only be determined by a diagnostic test performed by a veterinarian. If you think your dog is showing signs of dog flu, here are the important steps to follow:
Call your Veterinarian, if they are not available call us immediately. Do NOT come to the clinic without calling first. If your dog does have dog flu, coming into the clinic may put other pets at risk, it is better if we have a room ready for your arrival. Be sure to have the following information when you call:
Your dog’s symptoms and when they started
If your dog has been involved in any social behaviors
Has your dog been directly exposed to another dog showing symptoms of illness
When you call, our veterinary nurses will assess your situation and provide specific instructions on when and how they will see your dog to minimize potential exposure to other pets. Based on your pet’s unique situation we may perform diagnostics to assist in our diagnosis.
What if my dog does have the flu?
Most dogs recover at home without any complications. Most dogs will recover within 2 weeks but they may remain infectious to other dogs for up to 1 month. It is very important that during that month they remain isolated from other pets.
A small number of dogs with a more severe form of the illness may develop pneumonia and will have labored breathing. Please call our clinic right away if you see these signs as your dog may need special hospitalized care to recover. Fortunately, death from dog flu is rare.
How can I PROTECT my dog from the flu?
The most important step is to vaccinate your dog against the canine influenza virus. We strongly recommend that you contact your Veterinarian if you have dogs who participate in doggy social events; boarding, day care or grooming. The vaccine must be boostered 2-4 weeks after the first dose to ensure adequate response. Just like the human flu vaccine, getting vaccinated does NOT guarantee against infection, but it will make it less likely. Additionally, if your pet has been vaccinated and contracts the virus, the disease is likely to be milder and of shorter duration.
Knowledge and common sense are your best protection against dog flu. Please be aware of any outbreaks in your immediate community and take necessary precautions in avoiding doggy social events in.