Canine Flu: The New Strain, and What you Should Know!

Did you know that canines can get the flu? The virus which causes dog flu was first identified in Florida in 2004. Influenza Type A (H3N8) primarily affects the respiratory system of dogs and can be potentially dangerous. Just like people, some dogs exposed to the virus can fight it off. Others may face serious consequences.

Symptoms which appear in dogs may range anywhere from mild to severe. In mild cases, dogs will develop a cough and nasal discharge. Sometimes, the symptoms dissipate on their own. In severe cases, dogs develop high fevers and pneumonia leading to trouble breathing. Some dogs may cough up blood, and serious bacterial pneumonia could ensue. Veterinarians can take a blood sample from dogs to support a canine influenza diagnosis. This test should be repeated several weeks after the symptoms appeared.

What’s becoming more worrisome is the new strain of flu virus, which according The Seattle Times has recently sickened at least 2,000 pets in 25 states. The newer dog flu is suspected as having spread from a Kent kennel. The kennel promptly reported the illness and shut down to help prevent the spread of the illness. However, the number of pets infected is distressing.

The newer strain of the canine influenza virus (H3N2) first appeared in the United States last March. Over 1,000 dogs in Chicago and the Midwest, were infected. H3N2 is described as a variant of a dog flu which was first detected in 2007, in part of Asia.

Spreading of the flu between dogs can easily occur when dogs are misdiagnosed or show little to no symptoms, and are around other dogs. Since they lack natural immunity to the flu virus, an infected dog can pass it to another dog through aerosolized respiratory secretions, such as sneezing and panting. Dogs are contagious several days before symptoms appear and for weeks afterward.

Several drug manufacturers have produced vaccines. In areas not near outbreaks, veterinarians may not keep it in stock. Talk to your vet to see if the vaccine is advisable for your dog. Pet owners are being encouraged by veterinarians to pay attention to symptoms their dog may be experiencing. If you suspect your dog is ill with the flu, contact your pet’s medical care provider immediately. Often times, early intervention is lifesaving.


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