This notice is not meant to alarm dog-owners, but to provide accurate information about the recently-confirmed cases of Canine Influenza Virus (H3N2 strain) in the United States. The virus was first isolated in Chicago in 2015, and the most recent outbreaks of this year have occurred in the following states: Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas.
The virus is highly contagious – infecting 80% of dogs who come in contact with it — and this is a time for dog-owners to be aware of the symptoms of canine flu, and take necessary precautions to keep their pets safe from contact with any infected dogs in apartment buildings, dog parks, clinics, grooming centers, kennels or any other kind of space-sharing facilities.
The virus isn’t new, it is rarely deadly and does not spread to human beings. At this time, it is a just a matter of keeping your pets under surveillance and isolate them if you suspect symptoms before consulting your vet for diagnosis and treatment.
• Canine influenza often resembles “kennel cough”, which is caused by one or more bacterial or viral infections. The virus infects cells in the respiratory tract, eliciting an inflammatory response.
The most common clinical signs are coughing, sneezing, runny nose and eyes, lethargy and a disinclination to eat that persists for 10 to 21 days, despite treatment with antibiotics and cough suppressants.
In rare cases, some dogs exhibit clinical signs of pneumonia, such as a high-grade fever (104°F to 106°F) and increased respiratory rate and effort. Although most dogs recover without incident, some deaths due to H3N2 have been reported.
• There is no “season” for canine influenza, and infections can occur at any time of the year.
The virus is transmitted through droplets containing respiratory secretions from coughing, barking and sneezing.
Canine influenza can also spread indirectly through objects – for example, food and water bowls, kennels, collars and leashes — or even from people who have handled an infected dog and unknowingly transported the virus via their clothes, hands etc.
It is very important to disinfect any object that has been in contact with an infected dog to avoid exposing other dogs to the virus. Handlers should also maintain a careful self-disinfecting routine at this time, so as not to be carriers.
The virus can stay viable (alive and able to infect) on surfaces for up to 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours, and on hands for 12 hours.
The H3N8 strain has an incubation period of 1 to 5 days, and clinical signs typically appear 2 to 3 days after exposure. Dogs infected with H3N2 may start showing respiratory signs between 2 and 8 days after infection. Dogs are most contagious during the incubation period and shed the virus even though they are not showing clinical signs of illness. Some dogs may show no signs of illness at all, but still have a subclinical infection and shed the virus.
• Before you take your dog to the vet, do call in advance and warn them that you are bringing a probable case of the H3N2 influenza virus. This is for the safety of all dogs visiting the center, and you may be asked to follow a specific protocol for entering the clinic to minimize the spread of the disease. At the very least, stay in your car until the vet is ready to see you right away.
Some dogs with H3N2 flu receive antibiotics to prevent or treat secondary bacterial infections (pneumonia). In some cases, dogs will also be prescribed medications to dilate their congested airways, thin mucus or ease their cough.
Treatment of CI, as with most viral diseases, is supportive. With good hydration, nutrition and rest, your dog should recover from the influenza within 2-3 weeks. Mortality rate is low, and unless severe complications arise, your pet should be feeling quite like himself/herself in a few short weeks.
CONTAINMENT AND SAFETY PRACTICES
• Remember though, that dogs can remain contagious even after the symptoms have disappeared. An isolation period of 4 weeks is typically recommended, and should be followed rigorously.
Throughout the event, as dog-owners, it is your responsibility to keep the dog’s immediate environment as clean and sanitary as possible.
— Use a solution of water and bleach to clean surfaces.
— Use paper towels instead of reusable fabric ones.
— Wear disposable gloves when handling the dog and his/her things.
— Wash hand frequently and use hand sanitizer.
— Be aware that though humans are not susceptible to the H3N2 virus, cats are. During the isolation period, make sure that any household cat is kept away from the patient as well.