Canine Influenza is a highly contagious strain of H3N8 virus that causes classic flu symptoms in dogs. Symptoms include coughing, runny nose and eyes, and fever. The newer strain H3N2 causes a very high fever of 104 to 105F within the first 24 to 48 hours. Because most of our dog population has no immunity to this new virus, almost every exposed dog will become infected.
Approximately 80% of infected dogs will display mild to moderate symptoms lasting for several weeks, while the remaining 20% can experience serious complications that require extensive hospitalization.
In some cases, a serious pneumonia has resulted in a mortality rate as high as 8%. This is considerably higher than the 1% mortality rate reported with human influenza. Dogs infected with canine flu can shed the virus for up to 2-4 days before showing any signs of illness and shed for up to 24 days after infection. The virus spreads between dogs by direct contact (licking or nuzzling), indirect contact (coughing or sneezing) or through contaminated surfaces (human hands, clothes and floor surfaces).
Where did Canine Influenza originate?
Canine Influenza H3N8 is an emerging virus that has been spreading slowly across the United States. In 2003, the Equine Influenza Virus mutated, as influenza viruses often do, and crossed species to infect racing greyhounds in Florida. Since then, the virus has now been identified in at least 30 states including North Carolina and Virginia. The newer strain H3N2 originated in Korea and emerged in Chicago in March 2015. Since then, it has rapidly spread to the majority of the continental United States and has been positively identified in Asheville, Greensboro, Winston Salem, and Raleigh North Carolina as of August 2015.
What dogs are at risk?
Dogs at risk include those that:
• Attend dog events or travel to high risk areas;
• Go to large daycare facilities, dog parks or group training classes;
• Board at large kennels or visit large grooming facilities; and
• Have owners who volunteer, work or are adding a new dog friend from an animal shelter, rescue organization or pet store that purchases puppies from high risk areas.
What is the treatment for Canine Influenza?
If your dog is exposed to any of the risk factors listed above, a vaccination is currently available to reduce the severity of H3N8 Canine Influenza virus significantly. Like other vaccines that your dog has received, it initially takes two doses of the vaccine given two to four weeks apart to provide protection against canine flu. After the vaccine series, your dog should receive annual boosters. If you have questions regarding Canine Influenza, the influenza vaccination, or if your dog has possible symptoms of the infection, be sure to contact your veterinarian. Your dog’s veterinarian is your best resource for information.