The recent outbreak of canine influenza, affecting dogs in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, and Texas as of this writing, involves the influenza virus H3N2. The strain is referred to as the Chicago strain, as it first appeared in Chicago, Illinois in the spring of 2015. The virus is an extremely contagious airborne disease that is easily spread among dogs, and can be contagious to cats. Two deaths have been reported in North Carolina. Listed below is some additional information about the virus and how to minimize the risk and reduce the spread of the disease.
The influenza virus is an airborne virus that is spread through proximity to infected dogs and can travel up to 20 feet. It can also be spread by contact with contaminated items (bowls, leashes, crates, tables, clothing, dog runs, etc.). People moving between infected and uninfected dogs can spread the virus. Eighty percent of all dogs that are exposed to the virus will contract it. The virus lives on soft surfaces for up to 24 hours and 48 hours on hard surfaces.
Some exposed dogs will be sub-clinical carriers, meaning that the dogs will contract and spread the virus without showing symptoms. Once exposed, dogs show clinical signs within 24 to 48 hours, and can shed the virus for up to 28 days after exposure. Most dogs recover with proper supportive care.
Symptoms of the virus are a dry hacking cough, a lack of appetite, lethargy, discharge from the eyes or nose, and fever. Untreated, the virus may progress to pneumonia, sometimes severe, that may make dogs extremely sick with potential for fatalities. Most dogs take 2 to 3 weeks to recover.
Prevention includes vaccination. The vaccine requires an initial series of 2 vaccines, and full immunity is not present until 7-14 day after the 2nd booster. Sick animals should be isolated for 30 days after symptoms subside. A 1:30 bleach solution should be used to disinfect common areas such as tables, bowls, leashes, crates, etc. The solution should be made daily, and a drying time of 10 minutes should be used before a new dog is exposed to the items. Stainless steel bowls should be used. Hands should be washed between dogs. At a minimum, hand sanitizer should be used between handing dogs. Disposable gowns, and wiping down shoes and clothing with a bleach solution are recommended after leaving an area where dogs congregate.
Willow Creek Veterinary Center is striving to keep up-to-date on the latest information regarding this outbreak. We are happy to answer any questions you have about your pet’s exposure risk; and whether vaccination is appropriate for your dog.
Dr. Ann Bastian