What You Should Know About Canine Influenza
- There are two known strains of the Canine Influenza Virus. The first, H3N8, began as an equine (horse) virus and was initially identified in dogs in 2004 following an outbreak in a Florida greyhound kennel. H3N2, originally an avian (bird) virus, was brought to the United States by infected dogs from Asia. The first outbreak of H3N2 occurred in Chicago in 2015.
- The current outbreak of canine flu in the southeast involves the H3N2 strain. It is believed to have started at two dog shows, one in Georgia, one in Florida.
- Cases have been confirmed in multiple states: Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Illinois.
- While there have been 4 confirmed cases in East Tennessee (Knoxville/Chattanooga), there have been no confirmed cases in Shelby County.
- There is no “season” for canine flu.
- Canine influenza is spread primarily through direct contact with respiratory secretions from sneezing, coughing, and/or barking. Neither strain is known to be infectious to humans. Because the virus remains viable in the environment and surfaces for 48 hours, and on hands and clothing for 24 hours, it can also be transmitted through contact with those items. Hygiene and disinfection are important in the prevention of transmission.
- Most dogs exposed to the virus will develop illness, though about 20% never exhibit symptoms (but are still contagious). Symptoms, if they occur, begin within 2-3 days following exposure. Respiratory signs (coughing, sneezing) typically begin 2-8 days after exposure. Dogs are the most contagious during the initial incubation period (the first 1-5 days after exposure).
- Symptoms of canine influenza include: coughing (dry or soft/moist), sneezing, nasal discharge, fever, lethargy, and decreased appetite. The nasal discharge is often the result of secondary bacterial infection.
- Symptoms such as cough, lethargy, and nasal discharge can be very similar to those caused by the numerous bacteria and viruses in the “kennel cough complex.” As a result, lab testing is required to confirm influenza.
- The dogs most at risk of exposure are those in contact with a larger population of dogs from various parts of the country. These include show dogs, field trial dogs, agility dogs, and dogs participating in similar competitions.
- Just as with human flu, there is no cure for canine influenza. Instead, treatment focuses on supportive care and the prevention of secondary bacterial infections. Vaccination does not guarantee prevention, but may shorten the duration and lessen the severity of illness.