In April, we all watched the national news to learn of the outbreak of the H3N2 canine influenza strain that is not covered by the vaccine. In the last week of May, we heard what we were hoping we would not hear in Annapolis, MD.
The first confirmed case of Canine Influenza Virus H3N2 was verified in Anne Arundel County.
First of all, don’t panic. What is most important now is education and some common sense. So let’s start with the education. I am not a vet and I don’t play one on TV. Please, please, please call your vet if you have concerns about your dog and don’t take my word for it. I have talked to 4 vets as of this morning, the manager of a kennel, and read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. That does not make me an expert, by any stretch, and I hope to summarize for you what you need to know about the canine flu, what you should do if you suspect your dog may be ill, and how to be smart about containing this disease.
- There are 2 strains of canine influenza.
- The H3N8 strain, which has a vaccine. 3 of the 4 vets I spoke to today recommends your adult dog getting this vaccine if your dog spends time out around other dogs (like in a training class). Check with your own vet to see what is recommended for your dog.
- The H3N2 strain, which does not have a vaccine. According the the CDC, it is unknown at this time if the H3N8 vaccine will protect against the H3N2 strain.
- Some dogs will be asymptomatic (showing no signs of illness) and some dogs will develop symptoms. Most dogs will develop symptoms similar to Kennel cough, but a few dogs will develop a more severe illness. Symptoms of canine influenza virus include:
- Variable fever
- Clear nasal discharge that progresses to thick, yellowish-green mucus
- Rapid/difficult breathing
- Loss of appetite
- One of the things of concern associated with the canine influenza virus is a dog getting a secondary infection, such as pneumonia. Your vet will discuss treatment options with you and antibiotics are a possibility for treatment of the secondary infections. It is usually the secondary infections that affect the dog’s health the most and have been the contributor to the few cases where death has resulted. Definitely take your dog to your vet if you have any concerns for his health, particularly if you seen any unusual respiratory distress including sneezing and coughing.
Your dog can remain contagious to other dogs for up to TWO weeks after symptoms have cleared.
If your dog is not feeling well, do not take him out. This is not the time to “power-through.” I would avoid taking your dog places where a lot of other dogs congregate- like a dog park. Now is a good time to work your dog in unique spaces, like Home Depot or a TD Bank branch! You can be creative and still enrich your dog. Be safe, don’t panic, and be smart about what you choose to do with your dog while this virus is in our midst. Comment below if you would like tips or advice on where to take your dog and what to do to add some unique adventures into your day while reducing your risk of exposure. If you have medical questions about your dog, please call your vet.
Some of these symptoms are hard to define. I mean define lethargic with a dog. Or rapid breathing how do I know the dogs just not hot from playing outside.
Justin- thanks for your comment. I agree, some of these symptoms are tough to use as a diagnosis on their own. I have always taken them in context, myself, but your vet may be able to explain it to you in a more clear way. A few years ago I had a dog who, one day, did not get up to greet me at the door. That was a red flag to me as “lethargic” because he always greeted me at the door. He passed away from cancer 3 days later. One of my two year old dogs today often stays in place lying on the couch when I get home so I am not alarmed with that from her. Now if she didn’t come to eat meal… I’d be on the phone to the vet in no time! It’s all relative to what is “normal” for your dog. Does that help at all?
You are very welcome Ginger.