Canine influenza, the “dog flu”, is a highly contagious respiratory infection. In 2004 there was an outbreak of canine influenza caused by the strain H3N8, and by 2009 a successful vaccine was approved which your dog may or may not be vaccinated for.
In March 2015, there was a new panic that struck the dog owning population, an outbreak of a new dog flu caused by the strain H3N2 in Chicago, Illinois. Unlike H3N8 that was reported in 36 states over an 8 year span, this new strain H3N2 has quickly spread to 25 states in less than a year!
Dogs that are frequently in contact with other dogs such as at dog parks, doggy daycare, and grooming are the most at risk for infection. Regardless of breed or age, almost all dogs are susceptible to the canine influenza H3N2 virus. It is transmitted by direct contact with an infected dog or droplets from coughing and sneezing. The infected droplets also contaminate surfaces, bowls, food, toys, etc. creating an easy transmission without physically being around another dog. The virus can survive in the environment for up to 2 days and on clothing up to 24 hours.
The dog flu can be difficult to diagnose as not all dogs will show clinical signs at the time of infection. Clinical signs include sneezing, coughing, nasal or ocular discharge, anorexia, lethargy, fever, and could even lead to pneumonia. In severe cases it can be fatal.
So here’s the good news! The USDA has granted the license to supply veterinarians with the vaccine to protect your dog against the H3N2 strain! Due to both strains of the dog flu being very infectious and easily transmissible, it is highly recommended to vaccinate with both canine influenza vaccines. Living in the city, in a highly condensed dog owning area, puts your dog at a higher risk in general. Unfortunately, there has already been a confirmed case of H3N2 infection in Gambrills, MD.
If your dog develops any of the clinical symptoms, especially coughing or sneezing, make sure to contact your vet and most importantly limit your dog’s time outside. The vet will inform you of how long your dog could be contagious.
By Adriene Buisch, Charm City Veterinary Hospital, www.charmcityvet.com/