How it got here and what to do about it
By Dr. Roger Krogstad, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
Canine influenza is not a new disease. Since 2004 there have been periodic, localized outbreaks of the H3N8 strain in North America. Recently though, the H3N2 strain has appeared on our doorstep with one confirmed canine case in Madison.
In the last month, Canine Influenza (CIV) has affected at least 1,000 dogs in Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana. This has received national attention and raised the concern of many pet owners.
A recent mailing from the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association quoted a professor at the UW School of Veterinary medicine as saying, “It’s believed the H3N2 strain was introduced here from Asia. The commercially available vaccines for CIV are made to protect against the H3N8 strain, and their effectiveness against the H3N2 strain is unknown at this time.” This is a similar story to the dilemma with the human influenza vaccine of this last year.
The disease is very similar to infectious tracheobronchitis (kennel cough) but lasts longer, makes dogs much more ill, and has a higher fatality rate. Two of the 25 dogs in the Chicago outbreak—the suspected source of the sole case in Madison—did not survive.
Dog owners should watch for the early symptoms of persistent cough, runny nose, and fever. Pet owners are advised to seek veterinary medical care, which may involve diagnostic testing, and treatment for dogs exhibiting these symptoms.
Early precautions should be taken now, part of which is client awareness. Higher risk dogs include those that frequently travel to known CIV areas, dog show or field trial dogs, and older or immunosupressed dogs. A risk assessment and the potential benefit of the CIV vaccination should be discussed with your veterinarian.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dogs up to date on kennel cough vaccine may be better protected against H3N8. This may be a good place to start for “lower risk” pets that frequent local dog parks, boarding kennels, and grooming facilities. Again, current vaccine protection, two doses two weeks apart, is questionable but is currently available.
The potential spread of this illness to other parts of Wisconsin will be closely monitored and the public kept informed. It is highly contagious with pet-to-pet contact and can be infectious for 24-48 hours on hands, clothing, or other objects. Recovered or non-symptomatic dogs may shed the virus for 10-14 days after the illness subsides.
For more information call your veterinary office or visit avma.org and search “canine influenza.”
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.