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Canine Influenza News May 2015
As you have already heard a large outbreak of a new canine influenza (dog flu) occurred in Chicago last month and more than 1,000 dogs were sick with respiratory symptoms. The disease is highly contagious since it is new, dogs do not have any immunity for this novel virus. Infected dogs have runny eyes and noses, coughing, sneezing, loss of appetite and fever. There is no definitive treatment but infected dogs are helped by supportive veterinary care such as intravenous fluids and antibiotics. Many dogs became seriously ill from secondary pneumonia and a number of dogs have died despite treatment.
Sick dogs were tested for H3N8, the previously identified dog flu and they were found to be negative. H3N8 was first identified in 2004 as a flu virus that mutated from a horse flu to a dog flu in Florida and then spread to many other states. There is an effective vaccine for the H3N8 virus currently available for dogs. The current midwestern outbreak is a new strain of influenza virus called H3N2 which is mutated from an avian flu from Asia. It is not yet known if the existing canine flu vaccine has any efficacy for the new virus. As of April 20, 2015 there are no reported cases of the new flu in New York State. Canine flu is transmitted by aerosolized droplets which can be spread from direct contact from dog to dog and the virus is also viable on surfaces where infected dogs have been and on hands and clothing. It is easily killed by disinfectants. There is no evidence that this virus can affect humans but it is believed that cats can become infected.
Because of the recent midwestern outbreak, there is hightened vigilence at doggy day care facilities, boarding kennels, grooming parlors and of course veterinary hospitals. Pay attention to the local news to hear if there are reports of the new canine flu in your local area. It is important to keep you dog well vaccinated against other respiratory infections (such as parainfluenza and bordatella) and alert us if your dog (or cat) has any signs of a respiratory infection. Only allow your dog to play with animals who are in good health and fully vaccinated.