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Public Service Announcement: Canine Influenza in our Area

October 21, 2021

A positive case of the Canine Influenza Virus H3N2 was reported in the area. Other cases are suspected but not yet confirmed. These cases were not at our hospital but at a hospital in our area. 

We recommend vaccinating any dog who has contact (direct or indirect) with other dogs for this strain of influenza. This includes but is not limited to, boarded or groomed dogs, dogs attending doggie daycare, dog classes, shows, or field trials, and dogs living in neighborhoods or visiting parks where other dogs are present.   Canine influenza is an airborne virus that is easily spread among dogs. Dogs do not require direct contact with another dog to contract this virus.  This is a particularly virulent strain of influenza with a high potential to outbreak, and has been associated with severe viral pneumonia which is resistant to conventional therapies.  This pneumonia is very similar to the type of pneumonia seen in human COVID-19 patients, though the two diseases are completely unrelated.  Deaths due to the H3N2 influenza strain are not uncommon, when pneumonia occurs.  As in COVID-19, many affected individuals have no signs of disease, but can spread the virus to other dogs.  

Note that most cases of influenza in dogs are contracted at boarding and grooming facilities or daycare facilities.  During an influenza outbreak, dogs should not attend these facilities until fully vaccinated.  Dogs who have been vaccinated in the past require a single booster vaccination, if they are not currently up-to-date on the vaccine.  Dogs who have never been vaccinated require two vaccinations given two to four weeks apart for full protection.  These dogs are considered fully protected two weeks after the second vaccination.  Clermont Animal Hospital currently has vaccinations in stock; however, supplies may be limited if demand increases, or a wide-spread outbreak occurs.  We recommend vaccinating your dog as soon as possible.  Visit our website at www.ClermontAnimal.net for further details or visit the American Veterinary Medical Association website:  https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/animal-health-and-welfare/canine-influenza.  For any questions or to schedule an appointment please call us at 513-732-1730.

Fall is the start of flu season, and new cases of canine influenza have already been reported in the area.  It is unclear whether the 2021-2022 flu season will see an actual canine flu outbreak, or just isolated cases of the disease.   Outbreaks occurred in Cincinnati in 2015 and 2017, with dogs dying in both outbreaks.  Dog owners have many questions regarding this virus.  Below are some of the most common questions and their answers.  For further information, refer to the AVMA and CDC websites (links below) or contact the doctors or staff at Clermont Animals Hospital at 513-732-1730.

 

What is Canine Influenza?

What are the Signs of Canine Influenza in Infected Dogs?

What Dogs are Considered At-Risk for Contracting the Disease?

Should my Dog be Vaccinated?

Can Humans or other Animals Get Canine Influenza?

What Should I do if I Suspect that my Dog has Influenza?

Where Can I Find Current Up-to-Date Information?

 

Q:  What is Canine Influenza?

A:  Canine Influenza is a form of the influenza virus that has mutated to affect dogs.  There are currently two strains of Canine Influenza:  H3N8 and H3N2.  The H3N8 strain first became a problem in 2004 in the racing Greyhound population.   It has since then spread throughout the country, but is currently mostly a concern in shelter situations.  The H3N2 strain emerged in Asia and was first introduced into the United States in March 2015.  An outbreak of this strain hit the Cincinnati area hard in the second half of 2015 and again in 2017.  New cases have been reported this fall, though it is uncertain if there will be a full-blown outbreak this fall.

 

Q:  What are the signs of Canine Influenza in infected dogs?

A:  When a dog is infected with the H3N2 strain of Canine Influenza, the disease behaves very similarly to the human COVID-19 virus, though these diseases are completely unrelated.  There are three possible presentations of canine influenza signs:

  • Subclinical Carriers:  approximately 20% of infected dogs will have no obvious signs of disease; however, they are still infectious—spreading the disease to other dogs.  This is one of the reasons why outbreaks can occur.  A dog with no signs of illness is taken to a boarding kennel, doggie daycare, or grooming facility where he can then infect dozens of other dogs.
  • Mild Respiratory Illness:  of the 80% of the infected dogs with clinical signs, most of them will have a mild respiratory illness lasting 10-21 days.  These dogs commonly have a cough similar to kennel cough that is not responsive to antibiotics.  Sneezing, nasal/ocular discharge, lethargy, and fever (104-105o) are also common.  Laboratory testing is necessary to distinguish this disease from other respiratory illnesses, as the signs are not unique.  For this reason, the mild form of the illness often goes undiagnosed.
  • Severe Respiratory Illness:  Only a small percentage of the infected dogs develop the severe form of the disease; however, these dogs are very sick.  In the severe form of the disease, viral pneumonia is present and has a limited response to conventional treatments.  These dogs require hospitalization for an extended period, and death is not uncommon.  Approximately 10% of dogs who contract the clinical form of the H3N2 strain of Canine Influenza will die from the disease or its complications.  Almost all of these deaths occur within this severely affected group.

 

Q:  What dogs are considered at-risk for contracting the disease?

A:  Because canine influenza is a newly emergent disease, few unvaccinated dogs have any natural immunity to the illness.  Approximately 80% of dogs exposed to canine influenza will develop the infection.  Because this is an air-borne disease, and because it is now present in the Cincinnati area, all dogs who come into contact with other dogs are considered at-risk.  While a dog may not go to a boarding or grooming facility, if the neighbors dog does and becomes a subclinical carrier, the disease can be spread unknowingly to other dogs in the neighborhood.  The following information will help identify the level of risk:

  • Very High Risk:  any dogs that visit a boarding, grooming, day care, or other indoor dog facility within three weeks of a confirmed influenza case in another dog that has visited the same facility.  These dogs should be strictly quarantined for three weeks to prevent further spread of the disease and should receive medical treatment at the first sign of illness.
  • High Risk:  any dog that visits a boarding, grooming, day care, or other indoor dog facility in a geographic area where cases of canine influenza have recently been reported—this currently includes Cincinnati.  These dogs should be vaccinated as soon as possible.
  • Moderate Risk:  any dog that has indirect, outdoor-only contact with other dogs through a shared fence or on walks at a park or through a neighborhood in a geographic area where cases of canine influenza have recently been reported—this currently includes Cincinnati.  Dogs who visit a boarding, grooming, day care, or other indoor dog facility in a geographic area where cases have NOT been reported during a regional outbreak also fall into this category.  Vaccination is recommended.
  • Low Risk:  Dogs that do not have contact (direct or indirect) with other dogs or dogs that have only indirect contact but are not in an area of reported disease.  Vaccination should be considered based on other risk-factors such as age and immune compromised status.

 

Q:  Should my dog be vaccinated?

A:  Currently, Clermont Animal Hospital is recommending vaccination for any dogs with direct or indirect contact with other dogs.  The doctors at Clermont Animal Hospital are happy to discuss the current status of Canine Influenza in the area and help determine vaccination recommendations on a case-by-case basis.  Refer to the risk categories above to help determine the importance of vaccination.  For any animal who has never been vaccinated for influenza or received only the H3N8 vaccine (prior to July 2017), a series of two vaccinations 2-4 weeks apart will provide the best protection.  Any dog who has been vaccinated for influenza since July 2017 should only need a single booster vaccine, even if this vaccination has not been routinely updated.

 

Q:  Can humans or other animals get Canine Influenza?

A:  So far, shelter cats housed in the same shelter as dogs infected in an influenza outbreak are the only other species to contract the H3N2 strain of Canine Influenza; however, because the influenza virus frequently mutates, it is recommended that any immune compromised human not have exposure to a dog with a current influenza infection.  Handwashing and increased cleaning/hygiene are always good practices to help prevent spread.

 

Q:  What should I do if I suspect my dog has influenza?

A:  If you suspect your dog has influenza or has signs that could be influenza, it is important to do the following:

  1. Contact Clermont Animal Hospital.  Inform the staff that you suspect influenza.  The staff at Clermont Animal Hospital will need to arrange for you to enter through a separate entrance.  Doctors and staff will wear protective clothing to prevent the spread to other patients.  A veterinarian will examine your dog and may suggest testing for influenza, if your dog does have signs consistent with the disease.
  2. An individualized treatment plan will be created on a case-by-case basis to provide your dog with the best diagnostic and supportive care possible, if influenza is suspected.
  3. Until your dog can be examined by a veterinarian and tested for influenza, isolate him from all other animals and any immune compromised humans.  
  4. Inform any boarding, grooming, or day care facilities that your dog has visited in the last three weeks that you suspect influenza.  Keep these facilities updated on any diagnostic results that confirm or rule out this disease.

 

Q:  Where can I find current up-to-date information?

A:  Because canine influenza can develop into an outbreak whenever there are known reported cases in a geographical area, it is important to stay up-to-date on current information throughout flu season.  Here are a few websites for further information:

 

© Clermont Animal Hospital, Inc. 2021


Posted in General Health

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Batavia, OH 45103
(513) 732-1730

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Voted 2021 Best of the East - Cincy Magazine
Voted 2021 Best of the East - Cincy Magazine