An Outbreak of the Dog Flu is Reported in the Austin Area
Canine influenza has been on the rise. Initially an outbreak occurred in Charlotte, NC, which caused the closure of several dog boarding locations. Veterinarians in Waco have recently claimed that the virus is now in Central Texas, with some dogs testing positive. They believe that an outbreak is very likely, if not treated.
While canine influenza can make your dog not feel well when they have it, the virus is not fatal.
What is Canine Influenza?
Canine Influenza is similar to the influenza that affects us humans. The canine variant is an influenza A virus, that resembles the viral strains that cause influenza in humans. It’s not contagious to humans, so we’re safe as it only affects dogs. It’s a respiratory illness that can make a dog feel very inactive, with symptoms including sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge and a lack of appetite.
There are two known strains of dog flu, H3N8 and H3N2, in the United States:
- The H3N8 strain has its origin in horses, when the virus jumped from horses to dogs, and transformed into a canine influenza virus in 2004.
- H3N2 originated in Asia, where it’s believed that the virus was originally prominent in birds, before it affected dogs. Two outbreaks of the H3N2 virus occurred in the US in 2015 and 2016; this is the strain that is believed to be presently affecting dogs in Central Texas and other parts of the United States.
How Is Canine Influenza Spread?
Canine Influenza is airborne just like the variant that affects humans. The virus is spread through a dog’s respiratory secretions such as coughing, barking, and sneezing, which can be inhaled by another dog. The virus can be spread via contaminated objects such as water bowls, collars, surfaces, and also through contact with people who’ve been in contact with infected dogs.
While influenza can make your dog feel very ill, the good thing is that it’s very rare that it’s fatal. Your dog won’t feel good, but the virus should only last around one to two weeks overall. Dogs can get other diseases where they have to be hospitalized, but this is rarely the case with canine Influenza.
Canine Influenza Symptoms
How can you determine if your dog has the flu compared to other afflictions such as kennel cough or allergies? It’s not all that easy. For example, a dog with kennel cough will not feel as bad as one with the flu, which is why it’s important to have your dog tested.
Canine influenza is not a seasonal virus, so it can be caught at any time. However, it appears that a viral outbreak is transpiring and oftentimes it can be found in social venues, such as boarding facilities, dog parks, a pet-friendly pet store…any location where dogs are allowed to congregate, make contact with others, and cause the flu to spread.
Being in close proximity to a dog that’s barking, sneezing or coughing, means that they are likely to become infected with the flu. Dogs are more contagious during the incubation period prior to their showing initial symptoms exhibiting symptoms.
Canine Influenza Contagion
The incubation range of canine influenza can last two to four days, dating from a dog’s initial exposure until it becomes a full blown virus. Keep in mind that there are two viruses to deal with: Dogs infected with H3N8 can remain contagious for at least 10 days after they’re exposed, where dogs with H3N2 can be contagious for almost one month. Dogs with H3N2 should be placed in isolation for up to 21 days to help stop the spread of the virus.
Be aware that most dogs who come in contact with the virus will get it, but they don’t often show any the symptoms. Roughly 25% of infected dogs are asymptomatic, meaning that they carry it, but can spread the virus without showing any symptoms.
Protecting your Dog from Canine Influenza
Vaccines are available for both H3N8 and H3N2 canine influenza strains. They don’t completely prevent the virus, but, they can greatly help mitigate symptoms as a preventive measure. Once vaccinated, dogs will have a greater ability to recover from canine influenza as a faster rate, compared to them not being vaccinated.
How Often Should Your Dog be Vaccinated?
The canine influenza vaccine is not considered one of the main vaccine series, as the flu only affects dogs that make contact with others who may have it or are at risk of getting it. It’s a specialized vaccine that you would need to ask your Austin vet for. The vaccine currently exists as a group of two shots. Your dog will get the first shot, and then receive a booster shot in a 2 to 4 week range. It then becomes an annual vaccine afterwards.
Canine influenza will require input from your Austin vet. Remember, no cure for canine influenza exists, which is why your vet can counsel you on how to help your dog during their illness and recovery. Not every dog is the same and some may need more attention and care than others. Some dogs may require fluids, supportive assistance and even anti-inflammatory meds to help them through the process and eliminate any sign of fever.
If you suspect your dog may have canine influenza, contact ATX Animal Clinic. We’ll assess your dog’s situation, discuss vaccines, nutritional plans and quarantine procedures, to help prevent the flu from spreading.