By Dr. Elizabeth Knabe, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
Many people may have heard of an outbreak of dog flu virus in Chicago in April 2015. It was highly contagious between dogs and caused many dog day care facilities, boarding kennels, and dog activity areas to temporarily close down. It made the news in the Midwest as up until then the only dog influenza virus cases came as smaller, sporadic outbreaks in other parts of the country.
Canine influenza (CIV) has been around since 2004 when it appeared in Florida at a greyhound racing track. An equine influenza, type H3N8, was able to cross species and turn into a dog virus there that gradually spread across the country and made small populations of dogs ill.
The Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Lab tested the Chicago flu virus and discovered that it was a new strain — type H3N2 — that had only existed in Asia previously. There it had crossed species from birds to become a dog virus.
We do not know how it got to the U.S., but now that it is here, it is expected to make its way across the country just as the other type has. The signs of both types of flu include coughing, runny nose, fever, reduced activity, and reduced appetite. Symptoms may be more severe in cases caused by H3N2, and it has even been known to infect cats that were exposed to infected dogs.
Thankfully, most cases of either type of CIV are mild and self-limiting after about five to seven days. Animals having more severe cases may develop pneumonia and require hospitalization.
Though CIV can prove fatal, it rarely is. Mildly affected dogs should be isolated from other dogs for at least two weeks. The virus spreads via contact with secretions from an infected dog’s respiratory tract through sneezing, coughing, and barking. The virus can also live on contaminated objects such as dog dishes, cages, and clothing.
Veterinarians can prescribe medications to help with symptoms as well as perform testing to determine the severity of the illness. Many times there are co-infections with other organisms that need to be treated.
What can dog owners do? In the event of an outbreak of CIV, dog owners should avoid community dog areas until the outbreak ceases. They should keep their dogs up to date on their vaccines for the other respiratory illnesses, and they can consider vaccinating for the new H3N2 strain. Dogs at greater risk for H3N2 include those that visit dog day care, boarding facilities, dog parks, and other areas where dogs interact. Owners with questions are invited to ask their veterinarian for more information.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.