Canine flu outbreak threatens state
By Beth Hyatt
Rumors have surfaced in the past few months that canine influenza has finally made it to Alabama.
According to www.cdc.gov, canine influenza is a “contagious respiratory disease in dogs caused by specific Type A influenza viruses known to infect dogs. There are two different influenza A dog flu viruses: one is an H3N8 virus and the other is an H3N2 virus.”
There have been no reported cases of the canine flu infecting humans as of now.
However, the influenza virus is constantly changing and it could be possible that one of these strains would one day be able to infect humans.
“I’m not an expert on epidemiology, but for it to jump from a horse to a dog, everything about them is so different. That’s not much different from a jump, in my mind, from a dog to a person,” said Dr. Josh Gardner of the Clay Hill Animal Clinic.
The virus first began as the avian flu, which then spread to horses and then to dogs.
The virus can now be spread from dog to dog.
The virus can affect any dog, but it is seen most commonly in dogs housed in kennels and shelters.
The H3N2 strain was first discovered in dogs residing in South Korea in 2007. It was first reported in the U.S. in April 2015. Researchers at Cornell and Auburn University have not found any proven cases in Alabama as of late.
There have been 94 dogs tested for this virus at Cornell University; none have tested positive.
“Cornell’s pretty strong and they don’t make flippant statements. They say there hasn’t been a case confirmed in Alabama,” Gardner said.
Gardner and the Clay Hill Animal Clinic have not seen any cases of canine flu so far, but they have experienced multiple cases of kennel cough.
“That’s Bordetella bronchiseptica— it’s a bacterial infection,” Gardner said.
“That was probably six or eight weeks ago. I don’t think any of those were canine flu.”
Gardner recommends vaccinating dogs that travel to other states or compete in shows because they are more likely to come in contact with the virus.
“The average dog, I don’t think, is in any danger. A dog that stays around the house and maybe goes to Confederate Park,” Gardner said.
Since the virus has mutated, there is currently no vaccine for the H3N8 strain; this is the strain believed to have mutated from equine flu.
“The vaccines we have are for the H3N2,” Gardner said.
The symptoms include coughing, ocular and nasal discharge and fever; not all dogs will show signs of sickness.
Much like with humans, every dog will react differently to the virus.
All dogs are susceptible to the virus and sickness can spread to dogs in close quarters with other dogs. Since the virus is a respiratory disease, it can be spread through coughing and sharing contaminated items such as toys, food and water bowls, etc.
If your pet is showing signs of this virus, do not let it come in contact with other dogs. Take precautions to keep surfaces, clothes, hands and anything else that comes in contact with the infected dog clean and sterilized.
The virus can be more detrimental to dogs with pre-existing conditions such as heartworms and heart or lung issues. If you see your dog exhibiting symptoms, please get them checked.