As of this past month, both the University of Florida and the University of Georgia have confirmed cases of canine influenza (H3N2 strain) in the states of Florida and Georgia. This recent spread of the flu is believed to have originated among animals at dog shows in Florida and at the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter in Perry. The North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association is specifically warning dog show participants about the outbreak because the dog show schedule rotation may place potentially exposed dogs in North Carolina next. As of June 2nd, one dog in the Raleigh area has been confirmed to have died from canine influenza (type not yet specified).
The H3N2 strain showed up in the United States two years ago and swept through the midwest. It causes a respiratory infection in dogs and cats very similar to the human flu. Common symptoms to look out for include sneezing, nasal discharge, and frequent coughing that can last for 2 weeks or more (cats usually do not cough). Many dogs will also experience a fever, lethargy, and decreased appetite. Severe cases may develop into pneumonia.
Whether or not your dog participates in dog shows, canine influenza is a highly contagious virus that can easily spread between dogs. People cannot contract the virus but may transfer it when moving between infected and uninfected dogs. 80% of all dogs that are exposed to the virus will contract it. Therefore, absolute caution should be applied during this recent southeast spread of the flu.
The best prevention at this time is to limit you and your pet’s exposure to other unfamiliar animals such as with dog parks and dog shows or events. A dog that stays inside most of the time and has an occasional walk around the neighborhood is at the lowest risk. It is also recommended to not allow your dog to come in contact with common drinking bowls or other items that have the potential to be contaminated with the virus. Canine influenza lives up to 24 hours on soft surfaces (clothes, stuffed toys) and up to 48 hours on hard surfaces (kennels, tables).
Currently, there is a single vaccination available for both the new H3N2 strain and the previous H3N8 strain. As with all vaccinations, it may not completely prevent infection but should your dog get infected may likely lessen the symptoms and duration of the illness. If you believe your dog is at risk due to it’s social and active lifestyle then speak with your veterinarian about the vaccine and other ways to minimize potential exposure.
Grooming Tip of the Week
If you are concerned about exposing your dog to canine influenza at a grooming facility, there are a few questions you should ask your groomer. Do you allow dogs to come in contact with one another or are they isolated in kennels? Do you clean and disinfect all common areas, kennels, tables, tubs, and tools in between dogs and on a daily basis? Do you use stainless steel kennels that can be 100% cleaned and disinfected unlike wire-cages? Do you have an air filtration system or scrubber to ensure clean air? Do you clean and sanitize towels and bedding on a daily basis and use clean towels and bedding for each pet?