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Canine Flu Was Transmitted to Four Cats

The cats were diagnosed at a northwest Indiana animal shelter.

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The canine influenza strain that struck thousands of U.S. dogs in 2015 has infected four cats at a northwest Indiana animal shelter. 

Sandra Newbury, a clinical assistant professor and director of the Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, confirmed the diagnosis. 

“Suspicions of an outbreak in the cats initially were raised when a group of them displayed unusual signs of respiratory disease,” Dr. Newbury said. “While this first confirmed report of multiple cats testing positive for canine influenza in the U.S. shows the virus can affect cats, we hope that infections and illness in felines will continue to be quite rare.” 

Newbury and Kathy Toohey- Kurth, MS, Ph.D., of the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, reported that dogs housed at the shelter also tested positive for the H3N2 strain. 

The feline link was not a total surprise. 

“Feline cases previously reported in South Korea suggested that the virus … was capable of making the leap from dogs to cats,” the university stated. “However, just one cat tested positive for H3N2 on a single occasion in the U.S. last year.” 

All the shelter animals were quarantined, and no infected or exposed cat or dog had been discharged as of late March. 

Newbury said she hopes the case remains an anomaly. 

“The shelter is doing an incredible job of being sure the virus is contained, and the animals are being provided with excellent care,” she said, “We hope we will not see a spread from this occurrence.” 

Most dogs infected with H3N2 recover after supportive care. The infected cats, all of whom survived, displayed upper respiratory symptoms such as runny nose and congestion in addition to lip smacking and excessive salivation, the university noted.

Canine H3N2 vaccines were released last fall by Merck Animal Health and Zoetis Inc., but no such vaccine exists for cats.

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Originally published in the May 2016 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today! 

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