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There has been a recent outbreak of the canine influenza virus. The most recently identified strain is H3N2 and has been diagnosed at University of Florida. It is thought to be after an infected dog(s) visited a dog show in Georgia. Those dogs of course returned back home and unfortunately took the virus with them. The virus is extremely contagious and can be passed on with no obvious signs or symptoms.
How could my dog get the flu?
The H3N2 virus is spread many different ways. It can of course be spread by direct contact with a sick dog but it also is spread by something called a fomite. A fomite is an object such as toys, food or water bowls, collars, leashes, or any other surface an infected dog has touched. Coughing dogs project the virus into the air and it can travel more than 20 feet.
How can I disinfect for the flu?
The virus itself is quite contagious but is easily killed. Regular soap and water will kill the virus. Clothing and bedding may be washed with regular laundry detergent and dried. It is not necessary to use bleach. Toys, bowls, leashes, and collars may be hand washed with soap and water.
How can I avoid the virus?
Avoid communal situations where there is no regulation such as dog parks, the dog beach, or anywhere dogs come together from unknown sources. Potential other high risk areas would be a grooming salon, boarding kennel, shelters, dog shows, pet stores, or daycare setting. If your pet mostly stays home and just goes for walks around the neighborhood the likelihood of infection is low.
What does an infection cause?
Frequent coughing potentially lasting 2 weeks or longer
Possible decreased appetite
Possible lethargy during the first few days of illness
Pneumonia is possible but less likely (~20% likelihood)
What should I do if I think my dog may have the virus?
Call your veterinarian – do not walk into the clinic as proper infection prevention and decontamination protocols need set up prior to your dog’s arrival.
Be prepared to have the following information available:
When did symptoms start?
Has your dog been to a dog show, boarding kennel, daycare, dog park, grooming salon, or another event around other dogs in the past 7 days.
A test may be performed by your veterinarian involving a swab of the nose and throat. The specimen is then sent to an outside lab for processing.
What if my dog is diagnosed with H3N2?
Most dogs recover on their own at home without complications. It takes approximately 2 weeks to recover but the dog will remain infectious for 4 weeks. Isolation from other dogs is important. Also remember our clothing and shoes can carry the virus outside of the home to other dogs or areas. If you have other pets in the home they must also be isolated and kept at home for 4 weeks.
What can be done to protect my dog against H3N2?
Stay “in the know” about local potential infections within the community or areas where you take your dog. If it is present within your local community confinement to your own home and yard is recommended.
A vaccine is available. Please call to check availability of the vaccine. The vaccination does require an initial dose and a booster 3 weeks later. Maximum immunity should occur by 5 weeks post-vaccination. It is possible for an influenza-vaccinated dog to contract the virus but the illness should be of shorter duration and have less severe symptoms. The vaccine itself is very safe and effective.
In summary if you have any questions regarding canine influenza please contact your veterinarian where your pet has been seen. We cannot give out any medical advice without a client/patient/doctor relationship and a current examination.
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