According to a recent report from local the ABC News TV affiliate, homeopathic veterinarian Will Falconer of Austin believes the Canine Influenza H3-N2 virus has spread to Texas after diagnosing a 3-year-old Akita patient with this particular strain.
The canine influenza H3-N2 virus has been designated a serious epidemic of a viral strain never before seen in this country. Known to have been infecting dogs in parts of Asia – specifically Korea, China and Thailand – since 2007, veterinarians with the New York State Animal Diagnostic Laboratory positively identified that particular H3-N2 virus as the one causing canine flu in approximately 1300 dogs in the city of Chicago and surrounding areas of the Midwestern United States. Because the virus is so easily spread, kennel and shelters across Chicago have shut down and pet owners are keeping their dogs away from dog parks.
Dr. Falconer says that Mica the Akita came in with a severe cough, runny eyes, and was feverish and sneezing. “You get dogs in close confinement together and it spreads from one to the next,” Falconer states. “The tricky part about it is a dog can be infected with it even before they show symptoms and they can spread it to the next dog.”
What are the signs of dog flu?
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, H3-N2 shows two clinical syndromes – a mild form of the disease and a more severe form that often results in pneumonia.
In the mild form of H3-N2, dogs develop a soft, moist cough that persists for 2 weeks to 30 days. They may be sneezing, have a discharge from the eyes and/or nose, may be lethargic and unwilling to eat. Some dogs with the virus have a dry cough, much like what is seen in dogs with “kennel cough.” A secondary bacterial infection can lead to a thick nasal discharge.
With the more severe form of H3-N2, dogs develop extremely high fevers (104ºF to 106ºF) and show the clinical signs of pneumonia, such as increased respiratory rates and a heightened effort to breathe. The pneumonia may be due to a secondary bacterial infection.
How is the dog flu virus spread?
The canine influenza virus can be spread via direct contact with respiratory secretions from infected dogs, and by contact with contaminated inanimate objects. Therefore, if your dog is coughing or exhibiting other signs of respiratory disease, your pet should not participate in activities or attend facilities where other dogs could be exposed to the virus.
Your clothing, equipment, surfaces, and hands should be cleaned and disinfected after exposure to dogs showing signs of respiratory disease to prevent transmission of infection to susceptible dogs. Using a good detergent at normal laundry temperatures adequately cleans any exposed clothing.
Is there an available vaccine?
In 2009, the FDA sanctioned the first canine influenza vaccine, but, as of this writing, the vaccine only protects against the H3-N8 viral strain prevalent at the time of approval, states an April 13, 2015 press release from the Centers for Disease Control. It is not known whether the H3-N8 dog flu vaccine offers protection against the H3-N2 dog flu virus causing the recent epidemic.
What is the treatment for dog flu?
As with any disease caused by a virus, treatment is largely supportive. Good animal care practices and nutrition assist dogs in mounting an effective immune response against the disease.
The course of treatment depends on your dog’s condition, including the presence or absence of a secondary bacterial infection, pneumonia, dehydration, or other medical issues. Your veterinarian might prescribe medications, such as an antibiotic (to fight secondary infections) and/or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (to reduce fever, swelling and pain). Dehydrated dogs may need fluid therapy to restore and maintain hydration. Other medications, or even hospitalization, may also be necessary for more severe cases.
Can my family or my other pets get this disease?
To date, there is no evidence that the H3-N2 virus is transmissible to humans. The H3-N2 strain, however, has been reported in Asia to infect cats, and there is also some evidence that guinea pigs and ferrets can become infected.
If your dog is showing signs of the influenza virus, see your veterinarian immediately for a complete diagnosis and recommended treatment protocol.