Although there’s no definitive number outlining how many dogs contract canine influenza available, one thing that’s trackable is outbreaks. And from the map above, it’s obvious canine influenza outbreaks are getting more and more common in the United States.
For example, in 2007 there were only two outbreaks and one strain (H3N8) in the entire United States. In fact, Kentucky and Tennessee were the only two states affected by this nuisance of a virus.
Now, fast forward to 2018, there are only four states, Alaska, Hawaii, Nebraska, and North Dakota without an outbreak and both strains are wreaking havoc across the country. And it’s clear these states aren’t going to stay outbreak free forever.
For instance, Montana was outbreak free from 2007- 2015 and then suddenly in 2016 both strains had invaded the state in the same year. In each of the next two years, it had an outbreak of both strains.
With this information, it certainly seems like each state will have an outbreak every year in the near future. Well, maybe not Alaska and Hawaii because of how isolated they’re from the rest of the other 48 states. But regardless, it’s quite clear this problem is only getting worse.
Over the last decade or so, canine influenza has become an issue for many dog owners. Due to this, it’s essential you understand what might be threatening your dog’s health. After all, we want our dogs to stay healthy and happy for as long as possible.
Therefore, this article will go over all the in’s and out’s of this virus to ensure it never becomes a problem for your best furry friend. So, read on and find out all the necessary information about this potentially threatening flu to make sure you’re prepared.
What is Canine Influenza
Canine influenza is a highly contagious viral infection that has started to make itself known inside the United States. It’s a type A influenza virus that is further identified by two specific proteins, hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA), which are located in the lipid outer layer of the capsid.
In the United States, there are two variations, H3N8 and H3N2, that have rapidly become prevalent issues for dog owners. And it’s not just dog owners, both of these strains have been known to infect other species as well.
H3N8 Canine Influenza
In the case of H3N8, it seems the virus gained the ability to infect dogs around 2004 when it was found making racing greyhounds in Florida sick. It makes sense given the canine H3N8 influenza virus is thought to been developed from a equine (horse) H3N8 influenza strain. .
Since 2004, it’s moved past just infecting the Florida area and has been found in most US states affecting dogs in staggering numbers. As a result, it’s become a real issue that keeps finding new ways to make our dogs’ lives miserable.
It got so extreme that the CDC felt the need to identify the virus as the “newly emerging pathogen in the dog population” in a 2005 press release. And since then, all the virus has done is continue to spread its nastiness across the United States.
H3N2 Canine Influenza
In comparison, the H3N2 strain is a relatively new issue for United States dog owners first popping up during the 2015 dog respiratory illness outbreak in Chicago. However, it had been known to infect dogs across the world for quite a while beforehand.
Prior to the outbreak in Chicago, the H3N2 strain was restricted to the following countries: South Korea, China, and Thailand. It first started infecting in South Korea/China around 2007 and likely came “through the direct transfer of an avian influenza virus – possibly from among viruses circulating in live bird markets – to dogs.
After Chicago, this strain has started making waves in a number of US states. In 2017, dogs from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and Louisiana were all found to be infected with this strain. As a result, it seems like this strain is only getting more and more problematic.
And dogs aren’t the only animals getting infected with this strain. In 2016, the virus was transmitted to some shelter cats in Indiana after being in the same facility as some infected dogs. However, there has never been a reported incident of a human being infected with this strain or any strain of canine influenza: but one day, it could.
With all this in mind, it’s essential we discuss how these strains spread from dog to dog and other animals. Therefore, you can make sure your pets avoid these scenarios to ensure they don’t contract this nasty virus.
How it Spreads
Generally, canine influenza is transmitted through respiratory droplets from an infected dog’s barking, sneezing, or coughing. It should no surprise that dogs at places like kennels, shelters, groomers, and doggy daycare are at an increased risk of becoming infected.
Other than contact with an infected dog, things like crates, food, toys, collars, leash, and other dog-related products can indirectly spread the virus. Due to this, it’s vastly important you wash and disinfect any object that may have been in contact with an infected dog.
And while humans can’t catch the virus, we can certainly spread it. Therefore, if you have had contact with an infected dog, make sure you wash your hands. I know, it feels great working at these shelters; however, don’t put your dog at risk because you didn’t take preventive measures.
What Are the Symptoms?
Ironically, the symptoms for both strains of canine influenza aren’t that much different from the symptoms you’d would expect to see from a flu ridden human:
- Variable fever
- Clear nasal discharge that progresses to thick, yellowish-green mucus
- Rapid/difficult breathing
- Loss of appetite
Sometimes these symptoms can become quite severe. In these cases, the infected dogs “develop pneumonia, difficulty breathing, and a high fever. Luckily, the mortality rate is relatively low, with less than 10 percent of dog flu cases resulting in fatalities.”
Regardless of the symptoms severity, you should take them to your vet immediately. And don’t think canine influenza is a seasonal disease like human influenzas because it’s not; you must be mindful of these symptoms year-round.
The timeline for both strains is relatively similar with the symptoms being noticeable one or two days after exposure. These symptoms typically will stop five days from exposure depending on the case. However, there’s a drastic difference in the amount of time the virus stays infectious between both stains.
For the H3N8 strain, the virus stays infectious on average about 15 days, well after your dog has stopped showing symptoms. In other words, they’re still capable of spreading the virus long after they stop being sick.
With the H3N2 strain, this infectious period extends itself even farther to 25 days. So, don’t think your dog’s ready to re-enter the dog park just because the symptoms stop. Ensure you wait the correct amount of time to avoid making other dogs sick. In fact,“ most vets recommend isolating dogs with H3N2 for at least 21 days to reduce the risk of transmission.”
I know, all this doom and gloom about outbreaks being on the rise is probably making you feel quite helpless. But believe it or not, there are certain things you can do to prevent your dog from contracting canine influenza.
1# Dog Flu Vaccines
As with human influenzas, there are vaccines available to fight against each canine influenza strain. There’s also a bivalent vaccine for both strains meaning your dog doesn’t need two different shots.
In any case, these vaccines are considered to be “lifestyle” vaccines and aren’t meant for every dog. Mainly, there are used on dogs who have increased risk of getting the virus: dogs in shelters, kennels, or dogs that regular interactions with other animals.
Due to this, it’s essential you discuss these vaccines with your vet before giving them to your dog. Buying these vaccines online might seem convenient, but please discuss it with your vet before giving your dog one.
2# Avoid Contact
This preventive measure is remarkably simple. During canine influenza outbreaks, don’t allow your dog to interact with other dogs or even other animals. After all, you don’t know whether or not the other animals have contracted the virus.
Of course, it’s not ideal to limit your dog’s time playing with their friends. However, their health is obviously more important than their playtime. So, be cautious and aware of the outbreaks across the country to ensure you’re limiting your dog’s chance of exposure.
3# Isolation of Infected Animals
With the rising rate of canine influenza, one of your dogs is most likely going to get infected at some point. During this time, you must isolate them away from your other animals. This virus is very contagious, and even a simple 10-second interaction can cause it to spread.
It might be tough, but you need to contain this issue. It’s a severe risk to your dog or cat’s health. Yes, the symptoms may seem mild, but it’s still not a good idea to let this virus linger around your house.
4# Decontamination of Potentially Infected Spaces and Objects
As mentioned previously, there are specific objects that can spread the virus: crates, toys, leashes, collars, blankets, etc. Make sure you disinfect these items before giving them to an uninfected dog. Honestly, this preventive measure is common sense.
Likewise, if you isolated an infected dog in a separate room, make sure you disinfect the entire room before letting other animals enter the area. For multiple pet owners, this step is essential in making sure your own house doesn’t have its own outbreak.
Along the same lines, make sure you don’t become the problem. In other words, if you pet a strange dog on your morning run, don’t pet your dog without washing your hands first. After all, you don’t know what where that dog’s been.
Mainly, there’s isn’t much you can do besides offering supportive care and soothe your dog through the experience. For instance, try giving your dog foods and supplements that provide proper nutrition to help their immune system.
Overall, It’s really about making them as comfortable as possible during this tough time. Therefore, make sure your dog has a nice and quiet place where they can focus on getting better.
But in some cases, your vet will prescribe the following medicines to help the process along:
Antimicrobials: are used best in early detection cases. These antimicrobials will help kill the virus before it becomes a significant issue.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications: These will help decrease the pain and fever the virus causes.
Intravenous Fluids: To maintain their hydration and to help dogs fight through the sluggishness the flu virus provides them.
In the end, it depends on your dog’s particular circumstance. So, it’s best to discuss with your vet the best course of action for treatment.