Canine influenza virus rears its head in Florida

12 dogs testing positive for H3N2 were exposed during show events; all being treated are in stable condition

By Veterinary Practice News Editors

The H3N2 strain of canine influenza virus that affected Chicago pets in 2015 has been reported in 12 dogs in Florida, according to Jerry Klein, DVM, chief veterinary officer for the American Kennel Club.

The dogs testing positive for H3N2 attended either a Perry, Ga., dog show from May 19 – 21 or the Deland, Fla., dog show May 26 – 28, or were exposed to dogs at those shows, said Rossana Passaniti of the University of Florida.

All the dogs being treated are in stable condition, according to a news release from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The mortality rate for dog flu is low, and most dogs recover at home without any complications, the release stated.

Common dog flu symptoms include sneezing, nasal discharge and frequent coughing. Symptoms can last for two weeks and dogs can be contagious for longer, stated a news release from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville.

Vaccines exist for dog flu, and a 30-day quarantine is recommended for dogs with H3N2 strain, according to Dr. Klein.

H3N2 was first detected in South Korea in 2007 before making its way to the U.S. in 2015. H3N2 made headlines that year after an estimated 1,000 dogs in Chicago contracted the virus.

Klein, an emergency room veterinarian at Chicago’s largest veterinary emergency and specialty center, was involved in treating hundreds of dogs sickened by the H3N2 virus during its initial outbreak in spring 2015.

Below Klein offers additional information for veterinarians to share with owners as well as tips for how to minimize the risk and reduce the spread of the disease:

Canine Influenza Virus Spreads Through

  • Close proximity to infected dogs (it is airborne and can travel up to 20 feet)
  • Contact with contaminated items (bowls, leashes, crates, tables, clothing, dog runs, etc.)
  • People moving between infected and uninfected dogs
  • 80 percent of all dogs that are exposed to the virus will contract it
  • The virus lives up to 24 hours on soft surfaces and up to 48 hours on hard
  • surfaces
  • Some exposed dogs will be subclinical carriers (some dogs will contract and spread the virus without showing symptoms)
  • Dogs show clinical signs within 24 to 48 hours and can shed the virus for up to 28 days from exposure
  • Most dogs will completely recover with proper treatment
  • Dogs that regularly interact with dogs outside of their own family or frequent places where many dogs gather are most susceptible to exposure to canine influenza virus

Symptoms

  • Dry, hacking cough (similar to kennel cough)
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Discharge from the nose or eyes
  • Fever (normal temperature is 101 to 102 degrees)

Prevention

  • A single vaccination exists for both the H3N2 and H3N8 strains of the virus; it requires a booster shot two weeks after the initial vaccine (vaccination provides the best chance of immunity within seven to 14 days of booster shot)
  • Isolate sick animals and keep them isolated for up to 30 days after symptoms subside
  • Practice good sanitation. Use a bleach and water mixture of one part bleach to 30 parts water to disinfect common areas such as tables, bowls, leashes, crates, etc. Allow items to thoroughly air dry for a minimum of 10 minutes before exposing dogs to them. Bleach breaks down quickly, so solution should be made daily. Keep in mind that bleach becomes inactive in UV light. If mopping, use two buckets so as not to cross contaminate areas
  • Wash your hands frequently, ideally between handling different dogs; at the very minimum, hand sanitizer should be used between handling dogs
  • Use disposable gowns or wipe down clothing and shoes with a bleach solution between dogs or after leaving an area where dogs congregate
  • Food/water bowls should be made of stainless steel instead of plastic because scratched plastic is hard to fully disinfect

Treatment

  • Contact your veterinarian immediately if you believe your dog may have canine influenza virus; untreated, the illness may progress to pneumonia or other, more serious problems
  • Most dogs take two to three weeks to recover from the illness

Containment

  • Isolate any dog suspected of having canine influenza virus immediately from other dogs; do not attend dog shows, day care, grooming facilities, dog parks or other places dogs gather (dogs are contagious for up to 30 days once they have started showing symptoms)
  • Contact your veterinarian to let them know that your dog may be showing symptoms of canine influenza virus; call ahead with a suspected case (the clinic may ask you to follow a specific protocol before entering the clinic to minimize the spread of the disease)
  • Keep sick dogs at home and isolated from other dogs and cats until you are certain the illness has run its course (typically three to four weeks)
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