The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta reports there are currently two types of canine influenza affecting dogs in the United States. Influenza H3N8 virus has plagued horses for more than 40 years. However, in 2004 several greyhound dogs were sickened by a mysterious respiratory illness.
Veterinarians eventually determined the dogs were infected with an adapted form of equine influenza, which they apparently caught from horses and could spread to other dogs. By 2005, canine influenza H3N8 virus was formally identified as a “newly emerging” canine pathogen within the United States.
Symptoms of the H3N8 dog flu range from mild to severe, and commonly include sneezing and a dry cough. Although most dogs recover within two to three weeks, the virus can develop into pneumonia.
PetMD reports symptoms of pneumonia include a heavier cough with bloody phlegm, difficulty breathing, and a fever above 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
Although there is a vaccine for the Influenza H3N8 virus, it cannot fully prevent dogs from contracting the disease. However, it is effective in reducing the incidence and severity of symptoms
H3N2 may be spreading more easily because dogs “remain contagious for about three weeks,” and may not display any symptoms at all. In contrast, dogs with H3N8 are only contagious for two weeks.
As the dog flu has spread to 26 states this season, health officials are asking dog owners to take preventative measures and be aware of the possible symptoms.
Like many human flu viruses, canine influenza is spread through direct contact and respiratory secretions. As dogs can become infected by “coming into contact with contaminated objects,” it is important to keep clothing, toys, and surfaces clean if numerous dogs are present.
Pet owners should also keep their dogs away from other dogs who are visibly ill.
How can I prevent dog flu?
-Veterinary officials recommend a dog flu vaccine to prevent your pet from contracting the disease.
-If you believe your dog has contracted the flu, keep the dog out of contact of other dogs until the infection has subsided.
-Avoiding places where dogs congregate — dog parks, dog day care, boarding facilities, grooming facilities, etc. — will reduce risk of exposure.
-If you play with an infected dog — even if the dog is not showing symptoms — you could transmit the disease to your dog later via your clothes or skin.
-Clothing, equipment, surfaces, and hands should be cleaned and disinfected after exposure to dogs showing flu symptoms.