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Canine Influenza FAQ 2017-2018
Clermont Animal Hospital Inc.
Since the spring of 2017, the H3N2 strain of the Canine Influenza virus has been spreading across the country. In November 2017, the first officially identified case was diagnosed in Cincinnati. Dog owners have many questions regarding this virus. Below are some of the most common questions and their answers. For further information, refer to the AVMA and CDC websites (links below) or contact the doctors or staff at Clermont Animals Hospital at 513-732-1730.
What is Canine Influenza?
What are the Signs of Canine Influenza in Infected Dogs?
What Dogs are Considered At-Risk for Contracting the Disease?
Should my Dog be Vaccinated?
Can Humans or other Animals Get Canine Influenza?
What Should I do if I Suspect that my Dog has Influenza?
Q: What is Canine Influenza?
A: Canine Influenza is a form of the influenza virus that has mutated to affect dogs. There are currently two strains of Canine Influenza: H3N8 and H3N2. The H3N8 strain first became a problem in 2004 in the racing Greyhound population. It has since then spread throughout the country, but is currently mostly a concern in shelter situations. The H3N2 strain emerged in Asia and was first introduced into the United States in March 2015. An outbreak of this strain hit the Cincinnati area hard in the second half of 2015. A new wave of the virus has been circulating throughout the Eastern United States since May 2017. The first case was confirmed in Cincinnati in November 2017.
Q: What are the signs of Canine Influenza in infected dogs?
A: When a dog is infected with the H3N2 strain of Canine Influenza, there are three possible presentations of signs:
- Subclinical Carriers: approximately 20% of infected dogs will have no obvious signs of disease; however, they are still infectious—spreading the disease to other dogs. This is one of the reasons why outbreaks can occur. A dog with no signs of illness is taken to a boarding kennel, doggie daycare, or grooming facility where he can then infect dozens of other dogs.
- Mild Respiratory Illness: of the 80% of the infected dogs with clinical signs, most of them will have a mild respiratory illness lasting 10-21 days. These dogs commonly have a cough similar to kennel cough that is not responsive to antibiotics. Sneezing, nasal/ocular discharge, lethargy, and fever (104-105o) are also common. Laboratory testing is necessary to distinguish this disease from other respiratory illnesses, as the signs are not unique. For this reason, the mild form of the illness often goes undiagnosed.
- Severe Respiratory Illness: only a small percentage of the infected dogs develop the severe form of the disease; however these dogs are very sick. In the severe form of the disease, viral pneumonia is present and has a limited response to conventional treatments. These dogs require hospitalization for an extended period, and death is not uncommon. Approximately 10% of dogs who contract the H3N2 strain of Canine Influenza will die from the disease or its complications. Almost all of these deaths occur within this severely affected group.
Q: What dogs are considered at-risk for contracting the disease?
A: Because canine influenza is a newly emergent disease, few unvaccinated dogs have any natural immunity to the illness. Approximately 80% of dogs exposed to canine influenza will develop the infection. Because this is an air-borne disease, and because it is now present in the Cincinnati area, all dogs that come into contact with other dogs are considered at-risk. While a dog may not go to a boarding or grooming facility, if the neighbor’s dog does and becomes a subclinical carrier, the disease can be spread unknowingly to other dogs in the neighborhood. The following information will help identify the level of risk:
- Very High Risk: any dogs that visit a boarding, grooming, day care, or other indoor dog facility within three weeks of a confirmed influenza case in another dog that has visited the same facility. These dogs should be strictly quarantined for three weeks to prevent further spread of the disease and should receive medical treatment at the first sign of illness.
- High Risk: any dog that visits a boarding, grooming, day care, or other indoor dog facility in a geographic area where cases of canine influenza have recently been reported—this currently includes Cincinnati. These dogs should be vaccinated as soon as possible.
- Moderate Risk: any dog that has indirect, outdoor-only contact with other dogs through a shared fence or on walks at a park or through a neighborhood in a geographic area where cases of canine influenza have recently been reported—this currently includes Cincinnati. Dogs who visit a boarding, grooming, day care or other indoor dog facility in a geographic area where cases have NOT been reported during a regional outbreak also fall into this category. Vaccination is recommended.
- Low Risk: Dogs that do not have contact (direct or indirect) with other dogs or dogs that have only indirect contact but are not in an area of reported disease. Vaccination should be considered based on other risk-factors such as age and immune compromised status.
Q: Should my dog be vaccinated?
A: Currently, Clermont Animal Hospital is recommending vaccination for any dogs with direct or indirect contact with other dogs. The doctors at Clermont Animal Hospital are happy to discuss the current status of Canine Influenza in the area and help determine vaccination recommendations on a case-by-case basis. Refer to the risk categories above to help determine the importance of vaccination. For any animal who has never been vaccinated for influenza or received only the H3N8 vaccine (prior to July 2017), a series of two vaccinations 2-4 weeks apart will provide the best protection.
Q: Can humans or other animals get Canine Influenza?
A: So far, shelter cats housed in the same shelter as dogs infected in an influenza outbreak are the only other species to contract the H3N2 strain of Canine Influenza; however, because the influenza virus frequently mutates, it is recommended that any immune compromised human not have exposure to a dog with a current influenza infection.
Q: What should I do if I suspect my dog has influenza?
A: If you suspect your dog has influenza or has signs that could be influenza, it is important to do the following:
- Contact Clermont Animal Hospital. Inform the staff that you suspect influenza. The staff at Clermont Animal Hospital will need to arrange for you to enter through a separate entrance and wear protective clothing to prevent the spread to other patients. A veterinarian will examine your dog and may suggest testing for influenza if your dog does have signs consistent with the disease.
- An individualized treatment plan will be created on a case-by-case basis to provide your dog with the best diagnostic and supportive care possible if influenza is suspected.
- Until your dog can be examined by a veterinarian and tested for influenza, isolate him from all other animals and any immune compromised humans.
- Inform any boarding, grooming, or day care facilities that your dog has visited in the last three weeks that you suspect influenza. Keep these facilities updated on any diagnostic results that confirm or rule out this disease.