Updated: Feb 16, 2019
Happy New Year! For those of you who are celebrating Chinese New Year, we want to wish you a joyous Year of the Dog! It's that time of the season where the weather is colder, resolutions are either upheld or not (new year, new you, am I right?), and everybody is a little bit sicker.
Seriously, it's time for people to stop coming to work when they're sick.
This year, the flu has been particularly harsh on us, but what you might not be aware of is that dogs can get the flu, as well. Dog flu is in the spotlight due to the recent outbreak in California with two confirmed cases in the Bay area.
What is Dog flu?
Dog flu is a respiratory infection caused by the Canine Influenza virus (CIV) of which there are two common strains; H3N2 and H3N8. To date there has been no human infection due to the H3N2 and H3N8 CIV. Because viruses can mutate and affect other species the CDC is closely monitoring the viruses and so far it is only affecting dogs. See the CDC website for more information www.cdc.gov/flu/canineflu/keyfacts.htm
Who can get Dog flu?
So far only dogs can get CIV. When the viruses are introduced into a newer area, such as California, the dogs do not have a natural immunity because the virus is something new. In very social settings such as traveling pets, dog parks, doggy daycare, boarding facilities, dog walkers with multiple dogs, shelters and multiple pet households, the virus can spread very quickly as it is quite contagious. The young and old dogs tend to be more severely affected. Dogs in shelters and rescues are most at risk of exposure and infection.
The virus can spread through the air via the virus in droplets from sneezing and coughing. Direct nose to nose contact between dogs and even humans petting an infected dog or surfaces (dog bowls, toys) contaminated by the virus then touching another dog without washing their hands can transmit the virus
What to look out for
Most dogs often develop a cough. The cough can be mild and dry, or more serious and productive. The nasal discharge can be clear at first then develop a color; green or yellow. Lethargy, decrease in appetite, fever and discharge from the eyes can also occur. While most dogs may have a mild case of the flu, some, as much as 1 in 5 can have a serious case with no signs; to developing pneumonia and sometimes death. (Infectious disease management in animal shelters - Wiley-Blackwell;2009:173-180
What to do if your pet is acting sick?
DO NOT PANIC
Take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Nasal swabs can detect the virus in the first 5 days of the illness and are most accurate in the first 24 hours.
Separate the sick dog from other dogs, and wash all communal material; bowls, toys, beds, cages, kennels, carriers with a disinfectant and let it sit for the appropriate time per the label. Rinse all surfaces thoroughly and dry. Monitor other dogs for signs of illness.
The veterinarian may suggest some tests such as a nasal swab, blood tests and chest radiographs to help diagnose the problem appropriately and initiate management and treatment of your pet's condition.
Management is aimed at supportive care to help support the pet's immune system and body function while the virus works it way out of the system. This may include broad-spectrum antibiotics to prevent and treat a secondary bacterial infection, intravenous and subcutaneous fluids to help reduce the fever and keep the pet well hydrated and the kidneys working.
Most dogs recover within 2-3 weeks
Can you prevent this?
Yes! Luckily there are effective vaccines on the market that can help protect your dog from both H3N2 and H3N8 strains. These vaccines are available as individual protection or a combination vaccine known as a bi-valent vaccine. If your pet has already been vaccinated against one strain we highly recommend getting them vaccinated against the second strain as well. Especially if you plan to travel to California or live in California, or travel to states currently affected. Remember these vaccines need to be boostered annually after the initial two doses that are given one month apart.
Disinfect all surfaces and practice proper hand washing hygiene
Stay up to date on the latest information about dog flu by visiting www.dogflu.com, the CDC website and speaking with your veterinarian
Here's to wishing you and Fluffy a happy and flu-free season!
More information on canine influenza in pet dogs can be found in this article: Influenza A Virus (H3N8) in Dogs with Respiratory Disease, Florida in Emerging Infectious Diseases journal, the AVMA website, and this update on the April 2015 Chicago H3N2 canine influenza outbreak.
Published by Dr. Varsha Ramoutar, Veterinarian and Pet Advocate