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Canine influenza

Posted May 06, 2015 in Advice Column, Johnston

Do you have questions about the recent dog flu outbreak affecting the Midwest? Over 1000 dogs have been sickened in multiple states, and the disease will likely spread. Here’s what you need to know:

Canine influenza was first recognized at a racetrack in Florida in 2004. This H3N8 strain of the flu spread to over 20 tracks in 11 states by 2005. This influenza virus has been reported in 30 states, including Iowa, since then.

Recently an Asian strain of influenza, H3N2, has been identified in Midwestern dogs. It is different than the bird flu outbreak, and has never been seen here before.

Dogs with the flu can show a variety of symptoms. Soft moist coughs, decreased energy, reduced appetites, nasal discharge, and fevers are the most common signs. Coughing can last from 10-30 days. Severe cases can develop high fevers of 104-106 degrees, and signs of respiratory distress can come with pneumonia. Virtually all dogs exposed to the virus will become infected, and will show some degree of illness. The good news is, less than 10% of dogs die from the disease, and most dogs will fully recover in 2-3 weeks. It appears this new strain can also affect cats, however no cases have been identified yet.

Canine influenza is spread by direct contact with respiratory secretions from infected dogs. Direct contact with an infected dog, contaminated clothing, equipment, surfaces, or human skin can spread the disease. Unfortunately dogs can shed high levels of the virus before they show any signs of the disease. Even responsible owners or facilities that immediately quarantine sick dogs can inadvertently expose others.

To help protect your dog, limit direct dog-to-dog contact when possible. Secondly, if you spend time around any dogs, wash your hands and change your clothes before handling your own pets. Washing clothes with detergent and standard temperatures is effective at eliminating the virus. The virus can survive on surfaces for 24-48 hours, so any contaminated areas should be cleaned with standard disinfecting solutions often. Finally, there is a vaccine to cover the original influenza strain. It is unclear if this will provide any protection for the current Midwest outbreak, however it protects against the H3N8 strain effectively.

Please contact your veterinarian if your dog has any respiratory signs. Intensive hospital care may be needed if your dog contracts the disease. Your vet is your best resource to discuss vaccine options and other preventative measures as this disease continues to emerge.

Information provided by Kristin DeVries, DVM, Pet Medical Center, 4450 128th St., Urbandale, 515-331-9035.

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