It’s flu season across the country, meaning young and old, healthy and strong are all at risk. But this year there is a new flu on the rise, a flu that only our four legged furry friends can catch. And it dangerous, with a mortality rate at 10 percent. But before you freak out, let’s educate ourselves on what we as dog owners face. As G.I. Joe said, “knowing is half the battle.”
What is it and where did it come from?
This dog flu is officially named H3N2 canine influenza and its known as an avian flu virus that adapted to infect and harm our family pooches. This dog flu has now been confirmed in over 30 states and has been declared an epidemic in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Florida and California.
According to Dr. Kyle Frandle from Los Gatos Dog and Cat Hospital, the origins of flu are still hard to determine. “Experts feel dog flu is now endemic in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Florida and now here in California. There’s some controversy over where it originates from; some experts think it came from horse influenza and some think from avian influenza. ” The virus was first confirmed in 2007 in dogs in South Korea and then spread to China and Thailand. The first cases on H3N2 in the United States were confirm in April 2015, but researchers have yet to identify how the virus made it to our shores.
How to Identify Dog Flu?
Dog owners may confuse dog flu with kennel cough, both share similar symptoms, including respiratory infections and harsh coughing. But dog flu is much more dangerous than kennel cough and can develop into a serious disease which can turn into pneumonia. Remember the mortality rate is 10 percent, so if your dog shows any signs of coughing, sneezing or nasal discharge, play is safe and see your vet.
How is it Transmitted?
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the disease is transmitted “through droplets or aerosols containing respiratory secretions from coughing, barking and sneezing.” And “Dogs in close contact with infected dogs in places such as kennels, groomers, day care facilities and shelters are at increased risk of infection.”
Also, it’s wise to know that the virus can survive on kennel surfaces, dog bowls, crates and cages, toys, dog beds, clothing and in our cars. It’s believed that the flu can live on surfaces for 12 to 24 hours before it dies. Like the human flu, the dog flu virus can be killed by disinfectants, most soaps, laundering of clothes and beds, and by washing your dog’s food and water bowls with soap and water.
The Good News
Researchers have developed a vaccine to combat this flu. The vaccine takes two doses, which are administered over a three week period. Just like the human flu, the vaccine doesn’t guarantee your dog will not get sick, but does make it less likely. So keep a close eye on your dogs and if you see any of the symptoms, waste no time and contact your vet.