Canine Influenza Outbreak in Chicago
Protecting Your Dog From the Flu
Veterinarians are urging dog owners in the Chicago area to keep their pets away from other dogs. Six dogs have died from a recent canine influenza outbreak, which has infected more than 1,100 dogs. This is the largest canine flu outbreak the Midwest has seen.
Researchers at Cornell University report the virus that caused the epidemic is a new strain of canine influenza to the U.S. The H3N2 canine influenza virus was previously only found in China and Korea and is highly contagious. Dog flu, as it’s commonly referred to, can be transmitted via respiratory secretions (such as coughing or sneezing–much like human strains of influenza) and by dogs contacting infected dogs, contaminated objects and people. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the virus can live for up to 24-48 hours on surfaces and clothing.
Dog flu symptoms include:
- Nasal discharge
- Poor appetite
- Low-grade fever
Since the signs of canine influenza are similar to other respiratory diseases, such as kennel cough, veterinarians cannot diagnose H3N2 canine influenza strictly from the symptoms. Veterinarians must perform diagnostic tests, including a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test and serological test.
PCR testing is done with the submission of nasal swabs or pharyngeal (throat) swabs. Nasal swabs collected within peak virus shedding (less than four days of illness) yield more accurate results. To confirm the results, veterinarians may also perform a serology, which is a simple blood test that measures the antibody levels present.
There is no cure for influenza. Instead, infected dogs are treated with supportive care, such as good nutrition and comfortable rest area. Most dogs will recover from the flu within a couple of weeks. Dogs suffering from other factors, including secondary bacterial infection, dehydration and pneumonia, may be prescribed medications or receive intravenous fluids.
The best way to prevent your dog from contracting the virus is avoiding dog parks, boarding kennels, doggie day care facilities and dog-crowded areas. While people can’t become infected, they can spread it around by touching infected and uninfected dogs. It’s recommended you wash your hands and clothes immediately after petting a dog. Make sure surfaces and equipment are disinfected. You can also get your dog vaccinated, but it may not protect him from the new virus.
“At this time, there is not enough evidence that this vaccine cross-protects against the H3N2 strain,” says Michelle Metzger, R.V.T. “This type of vaccine is generally recommended for owners of dogs that engage in activities that are considered to be high risk of exposure, such as frequent boarding at kennels or doggie day care visits.”
If your dog shows any of the above symptoms, please take him to your local veterinary clinic as soon as possible.
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