Canine influenza: Protect your dog!

Canine influenza: Protect your dog!

Flu can be dangerous for humans—and for dogs. But many people aren’t fully aware of the implications of this serious illness, frequently referred to as type A canine influenza.

February 13, 2020

Flu symptoms, such as coughing, sneezing and fever, can affect anyone … and any dog. Type A canine flu is frequently misunderstood by owners and is a particularly virulent illness that can have serious consequences. What’s the origin of the virus? How is it contracted? The 5 following questions and answers help shine light on the subject.


What are the origins of canine dog flu?
Scientists have identified two strains of canine influenza: H3N8 and H3N2. H3N8 is extremely rare and traces its origins to an equine virus which mutated to infect dogs. The H3N2 strain has been tracked to a bird virus in Asia whose mutation infected canines and subsequently spread to North America via imported dogs. Note that there have been no confirmed cases of canine flu spreading to humans.


However, type A canine flu is extremely contagious among dogs, especially in areas where few dogs are vaccinated. For instance, between December 2017 and October 2018 several outbreak areas were reported in Ontario when approximately 100 dogs were infected with H3N2. The epidemic was eventually contained thanks to effective quarantine measures. Because the virus may still be active in the United Sates, be certain to vaccinate your animal before taking them on vacation south of the border.


What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of infection with H3N2 in dogs are similar to flu symptoms in people. They include coughing, sneezing, fever, loss of appetite, muscle aches, difficulty breathing and nasal discharge. The clinical signs of infection are, once again, similar in dogs and people. Symptoms should not be confused with those associated with kennel cough and other infectious respiratory illnesses, which usually heal within several weeks.


With timely, appropriate treatment dogs generally recover without any long-term consequences. Note however that this may not be the case among very young and elderly dogs, as well as brachycephalic breeds and canines with pre-existing respiratory or cardiac conditions.


How is it spread?
Type A canine dog flu is spread through the air, via contaminated objects and through physical contact. It’s easier for your pet to contract the flu in places where there are high concentrations of dogs, such as kennels and dog parks. According to some experts, roughly a quarter of infected dogs will remain asymptomatic while carrying the virus. These dogs can however infect others for up to 28 days following their initial exposure to the virus. Eighty percent of dogs will develop symptoms of illness within 2-3 days following exposure to the virus.(1)


How is it treated?
If you suspect that your dog has contracted influenza it’s important to see your veterinarian as quickly as possible. Your veterinarian will indicate the appropriate treatment protocol, which may include intravenous hydration, antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications. Because flu is caused by a virus, your dog will mostly receive support treatment which aims to ease their symptoms. Most experts recommend keeping an infected dog away from other dogs for a period of 4 weeks. With timely, appropriate treatment dogs generally recover without any long-term consequences. Note however that this may not be the case among very young and elderly dogs, as well as brachycephalic breeds and canines with pre-existing respiratory or cardiac conditions


How can I prevent my dog from contracting the flu?
In areas where the virus is active, vaccination against type A canine influenza is the best way to prevent the virus from spreading and protect your dog. Be sure to avoid places where dogs can gather and all contact between your dog and other animals. For additional protection, experts recommend that you disinfect toys and food and water bowls. Wash your dog with water and soap if you think that they may have been exposed to the virus.


With these basic preventive measures in place, you will help limit the risk of your dog—and other dogs—contracting a potentially dangerous virus. And, when the threat of threat of contracting the flu passes, the coast will be clear for your dog to head back to the dog park!


Reference:


(1) Grippe canine H3N2 : le sud-est des États-Unis touché par une nouvelle épizootie


For more information, consult:


Key Facts about Canine Influenza (Dog Flu) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Canine Flu by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association
Canine Influenza resource sheet by Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine
Emergence and Containment of Canine Influenza Virus A (H3N2), Ontario, Canada, 2017–2018 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Government of Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Veterinary Advisory
American Veterinary Medical Association






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