The dog flu in 26 states has already spread to more states, and it has many dog owners worried about the symptoms and when their canine friend needs to see a veterinarian. The CDC and veterinarians are trying to educate dog owners about the symptoms of the dog flu, when it is time to be worried, and whether dogs should get a flu shot like humans do.
The dog flu that has spread across 26 states is a contagious respiratory disease in canines that can be caused by two different viruses, reports Fox News on February 17. Unlike the human seasonal H3N2 virus, the canine H3N2 virus can infect dogs throughout the year.
According to the CDC, the two different influenza A dog flu viruses are the H3N8 virus and the H3N2 virus:
The H3N8 virus started in horses and then spread to dogs. Scientists discovered that after jumping species, the virus adapted to specifically dogs, especially those housed in kennels and shelters because of their close proximity.
The H3N2 virus began as an avian flu virus that was first detected in South Korea in 2007. The virus then spread to China and Thailand, and the first cases of H3N2 were detected in the United States in April 2015. Like the H3N8 virus, H3N2 adapted to infect dogs. However, the H3N2 virus can also infect cats.
Dog owners who rescued their pet from a dog shelter might have actually seen the H3N8 virus in action and mistaken it for a kennel cough, which can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection. As such, it is helpful to know the symptoms for both.
Symptoms of a kennel cough (due to a bacterial or viral infection) can be the following:
• Kennel cough describes a complex of respiratory infections that causes inflammation of a dog’s voice box and windpipe.
• Kennel cough is a form of bronchitis and is similar to a chest cold in humans.
• It is accompanied by a persistent dry cough with a “honking” sound.
• In most cases, a dog will appear healthy except for the cough.
• Coughing up white foamy phlegm
• Nasal discharge
• Serious cases of kennel cough can lead to pneumonia and death if left untreated.
Symptoms of the H3N8 or H3N2 virus can include any of the following:
• Runny Nose
• Serious cases of H3N8 or H3N2 can lead to pneumonia and death if left untreated.
Some dogs might be infected by the H3N8 or H3N2 virus and show no signs of any illness. Some dogs might be coughing because they were infected with the kennel cough (which can be caused by a detectable bacterial infection) and not the H3N8 or H3N2 virus.
Dogs spending a lot of time with other dogs in dog parks or doggy daycare might be more vulnerable to picking up any of the above. Since the viruses are airborne, they are often passed on as dogs cough, lick each other, or lick humans. While people cannot get sick from the dog viruses, they can pass them on by touching other dogs or by letting dogs share food or water bowls.
So when should dog owners worry?
The most obvious signs that a dog might be due for a visit to a veterinarian is a cough, severe runny nose, loss of appetite, and a difference in behavior. Veterinarians can test for the cause of kennel cough and can also test to confirm the canine influenza virus. Depending on the test results, a veterinarian might prescribe medication to make a dog more comfortable and antibiotics to treat any secondary bacterial infection. As in humans experiencing the flu, dehydration is a major topic that will be addressed by the veterinarian. While there is an approved vaccine available for canine influenza A H3N8 and vaccines to prevent kennel cough, it is unknown if these protect dogs against the H3N2 virus.
Below is the list of states that have had cases of the dog flu caused by H3N2 between December 19, 2015, and February 2, 2016:
18. New Jersey
19. New York
20. North Carolina
23. South Carolina
24. South Dakota
28. West Virginia
The above list shows that the H3N2 dog flu has already spread from 26 states to 29 states as of February 2, 2016. For dogs who frequently travel with their owners or who spend time in dog parks or doggy daycare, there are flu vaccines available. Checking with your veterinarian might be the best course of action in order to help the dog flu from spreading to other dogs or other states.