Canine Influenza (H3N8) 10-13-09
Yes, dogs do get the flu!
Just like humans, dogs have their own form of flu virus. The canine influenza virus, H3N8, is highly contagious and spreads especially rapidly among dogs living in a confined space, such as a shelter, kennel or daycare. There have been over 30 reported outbreaks nationwide, but none in our area at the time of this writing.
The virus was first identified in 2004, and is suspected to have evolved from an equine virus. The canine influenza virus is NOT the same as bird or swine flu and it’s NOT transmissible to people. The signs of canine influenza virus are similar to kennel cough which can cause sneezing cough, lethargy and in severe cases (related to immune suppression) pneumonia.
Similar to other influenza viruses, H3N8 can cause severe respiratory infection and cough. Dogs shed the virus during the entire course of the disease. People can carry it on their clothes or hands and infect other dogs. Dogs with mild or no signs of the disease can also be shedding the virus.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), almost every dog that is exposed to the virus becomes infected and about 80 % develop clinical signs. An outbreak is likely to occur in a shelter, kennel, grooming facility or daycare environment, anywhere infected dogs could come into contact with other dogs.
There are two tests to diagnose canine influenza virus: a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or antigen test is used in the first 3 days of detection or a blood test for antibodies may be used after more than 10 days. Testing within the first 3 days yields the most reliable results. Both of these tests require a blood sample.
In June, Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health announced the availability of a vaccine for canine influenza. This vaccine is recommended for dogs at high risk for exposure to the virus, such as dogs in kennels or shelters where the virus is present. According to the AVMA, dogs that may benefit from the canine influenza vaccine include those that receive the Bordetella (kennel cough) vaccine, since the risk groups are similar.
We recently attended a meeting sponsored by Intervet Shering-Plough and experts reported the following additional findings:
Disease compared to kennel cough:
• The disease is more severe than kennel cough and lasts longer (up to 25 days).
• Dogs with lifestyles at risk for kennel cough are also at risk for canine influenza
• The virus can be spread by clothing & dogs coughing (up to 20 feet).
Vaccination (if elected):
• The vaccine does not prevent the disease but may prevent severity.
• The vaccine may reduce but does not prevent shedding.
• The vaccine has a provisional license only (reasonable assurance of safety & effectiveness).
• It is a killed virus vaccine that will requires 2 doses 3 to 4 weeks apart to be effective.
We plan to carry enough doses for any pet owner that wishes to protect their pet. Since there has not yet been an outbreak in pet dogs in Wisconsin and the disease is similar to kennel cough vaccination can be discussed on a case by case basis.
What do I do if I think my dog has canine influenza/cough/etc.?
1) What dogs are at risk to get Canine influenza?
In an endemic area (one where the disease is prevalent) any dog with high exposure to other dogs would be at risk (day care, kennels, boarding facilities)
Note: At this point because we are not in an endemic area dogs are not in immediate risk. If/As soon as an outbreak dogs with this lifestyle will be at risk
2) How dangerous is Canine influenza if my dog contracts it?
The disease is most often compared to canine kennel cough (which is really infectious tracheo-bronchitis) It causes similar symptoms as both are respiratory pathogens that cause cough, sneezing and can cause pneumonia in some circumstances
3) Is there a vaccination available for protection?
There is a 2 dose killed viral vaccine that was just released with a conditional license that should provide limited but not complete protection. It is important to point out that it would take at least 3 weeks to get protection (2 doses 2 to 3 weeks apart).
4) Where has this disease been seen to date? (October 2009).
There have been reported but unconfirmed reports in North Carolina, Atlanta and Washington D.C. Previous major outbreaks have been at dog tracks across the country.
5) How contagious is this virus?
There are reports that it may be more contagious than kennel cough once it gets into an area. It is reported to be able to be transferred on clothes and premises for up to 24 hrs and up to 20 feet from a dog coughing
6) Is there any chance of humans getting dog flu or dogs getting human influenza?
These influenza viruses are species specific and no cross transfer has been suspected or reported.
7) What else can I do to protect my dog?
Common sense measures like avoiding all coughing dogs, taking additional precautions if an out break occurs. Avoiding high risk situations (shelter and rescue situations, boarding if out breaks start to occur here in Wisconsin).