Canine Flu: What You Need to Know

Due to a recent outbreak of the canine influenza virus in the San Francisco Bay area, dogs in Oregon are at a significantly increased risk of contracting the H3N2 strain of canine flu. At the time of press, at least one case of canine flu has been confirmed in Grants Pass, Oregon, and one case has been confirmed in Washington near Kennewick. DoveLewis Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Hospital recommends vaccinating all at-risk dogs to protect from the severity of the virus and prevent an outbreak in our community.

Which dogs are at risk?
While all dogs can catch the canine influenza virus, those who come into contact with other dogs have a higher risk. This includes dogs who regularly visit dog parks, day care, dog shows, and grooming or boarding facilities. Dogs who have recently traveled to the active outbreak area in California are at increased risk, as well as rescue animals, senior dogs, and dogs with preexisting heart disease or lung disease.

Where can I receive the vaccination?
Vaccines can be administered by your regular veterinarian. However, since this is not a common vaccine, contact your vet first to ensure they have the vaccine in stock prior to scheduling an appointment.

Current vaccines do not fully prevent infection, but they can significantly decrease the severity and degree of infection and illness.

What are the symptoms of the canine flu?
Since this particular virus (the H3N2 strain) has not been recorded in Oregon in several years, most dogs lack immunity and are therefore susceptible. It is highly contagious, and nearly all dogs who are exposed will become infected. Cases of dog flu can be mild or severe; however, most cases are mild. Fortunately, the fatality rate is low according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Symptoms of canine flu include:

  • Anorexia
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Sneezing
  • Thick nasal discharge
  • Coughing
  • Difficult or labored breathing

Can cats be affected by the canine flu?
Infection of cats with the canine H3N2 virus is very rare. Symptoms can be similar to those seen in dogs.

Can humans be affected by the canine flu?
Canine flu presents no risk to humans, as no evidence shows that it can spread from dogs to humans.

How are dogs treated for the canine flu?
While there is no specific medicine to treat the flu, patients may require supportive care to maintain hydration, manage cough and treat secondary bacterial infections. Treatment recommendations might vary depending on the severity of illness. If your pet is mildly affected, outpatient care and treatments at home may be prescribed. If your pet is severely affected, has pneumonia or has difficulty breathing, a period of hospitalization may be recommended.

How do I protect my dog?
In addition to having your dog vaccinated, owners should avoid high-risk environments (dog parks, kennels, dog shows) during outbreaks.

“On the whole, be sure to monitor your dog’s health. Know and watch for the symptoms of canine flu – both in your dog and other dogs you encounter,” said Dr. Ladan Mohammad-Zadeh, DoveLewis critical care specialist. “It’s also important to keep your dog’s other vaccines up to date to prevent secondary infections.”

Many other infections and illnesses can have similar symptoms to canine influenza, so see your veterinarian or visit DoveLewis if your dog is experiencing any symptoms.

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