Canine Influenza Virus

The big news in veterinary medicine last summer was the outbreak of canine influenza virus in many dogs that were not perceived to be at risk for the flu. Historically the strain of the canine flu is H3N8, which had only been a problem in shelters with grey hound racing dogs that were housed to close to horse tracks. However, last summer, a new strain known as H3N2 entered into the United States from Asia for the first time. This strain appears to be an avian influenza cross over from birds, whereas the H3N8 strain was a cross over from the horse flu. We know the H3N2 influenza virus is present in the Franklin County, Louisburg, and Wake Forest areas as there have been confirmed flu cases diagnosed and reported in Raleigh.

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This new influenza is transmitted through coughing, barking, and sneezing. The virus can stay alive on contaminated objects such as kennel floors, dog bowls, and leashes for up to TWO days. This means that your pet does not have to come in direct contact with an infected animal to become infected, it just has to be in the same place (I.E a dog park or sniff the same mailbox) within two days of that flu-positive dog. The virus is very contagious, meaning that if one dog in a boarding facility is infected, the majority of the other pets in that facility will become infected. CATS can also become infected!!!! A shelter in Indiana had a Flu outbreak in cats, which was spread from infected dogs in the same shelter.

Signs of an infection typically include a cough that may persist for up to 3 weeks. Other signs include a high fever, nasal and eye discharge, and difficulty in breathing. Medications including cough suppressants, anti-inflammatories to reduce the fever, and fluid therapy to maintain hydration are often needed for treatment. Most dogs have a favorable outcome if they become infected from the flu, but it is fatal in a small percentage of animals.

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Fortunately, a new vaccine was developed for the H3N2 influenza virus that Heartwood Animal Hospital now carries. Two doses of the vaccines 3 weeks apart are initially required, and then it is a once-a- year vaccination. Heartwood Animal Hospital strongly believes in vaccinating all dogs that have exposure to the virus. This includes all boarding facilities, dog parks, or walking around streets and neighborhoods where other dogs are walked. Protecting your dog with this vaccine will also help protect any cats that you may have as well. Heartwood Animal Hospital has a strong focus on wellness and want to prevent disease when possible in our pets. Please call us at 919-570- 9311 to schedule for the flu vaccines or discuss any questions you may have. I hope that you have found this blog helpful, and please don’t hesitate to e-mail us at heartwoodfriends@gmail.com with any suggestions for further blog posts on topics you would like to learn more about.

Enjoy the weekend,

Dr. James Murray