As of this writing, canine influenza is back in the news due to the latest outbreak in the Chicago area. Many have questions about what to do to protect their pets and information is often coming from multiple sources that do not necessarily agree. What follows is our understanding of our current situation.
The current flu outbreak is from an Asian virus H3N2 that originated in horses. Previous influenza outbreaks in dogs were from a different strain – H3N8. According to an article DVM360 released yesterday:
“FURTHER TESTING LED RESEARCHERS TO BELIEVE A NEW STRAIN WAS AT FAULT. SUBSEQUENT TESTING, CARRIED OUT WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF THE WISCONSIN VETERINARY DIAGNOSTIC LABORATORY, IDENTIFIED THE NEW SUBTYPE AS H3N2. THE NATIONAL VETERINARY SERVICES LABORATORIES IN AMES, IOWA, IS SEQUENCING TWO ISOLATES FROM THIS OUTBREAK TO FACILITATE COMPLETE CHARACTERIZATION OF THE VIRUSES.
BOTH INFLUENZA STRAINS CAN CAUSE HIGH FEVER, LOSS OF APPETITE, COUGHING, NASAL DISCHARGE AND LETHARGY, RESEARCHERS SAY. SYMPTOMS MAY BE MORE SEVERE IN CASES CAUSED BY THE H3N2 VIRUS. SOME INFECTED DOGS MAY NOT SHOW SYMPTOMS AT ALL.
H3N2 HAS CAUSED INFECTION AND RESPIRATORY ILLNESS IN CATS, ACCORDING TO THE CORNELL RELEASE.”
The obvious question now is what do you do to protect your pet? First of all, realize that we have not seen it in our area. In the past, influenza outbreaks have been very regional. We have not seen canine influenza spread across the country like we have seen in humans. Our rural location is somewhat protective. Our risk level is very small at this time. Also, If your pet is not going to places with high concentrations of dogs – dog shows, boarding kennels, etc., then their exposure risk in EXTREMELY small.
Vaccination likely does not provide any substantial protection. Because this is a new strain of virus, the older vaccines are not tailored to this outbreak.
As with so many other diseases, your current best plan is to avoid exposure (pretty easy to do around here at the moment) and do everything you can to encourage a healthy immune system – feed an excellent diet, supplement with vegetables, not junk food treats, provide regular exercise and maintain a healthy weight. These common sense health management steps still apply.
If you would like to read the full article, here is the link: