Flu season is here: and every day, you hear about the importance of getting a vaccination to protect your health. But did you know that dogs can suffer from the canine version of human influenza called H3N8? The virus that causes this illness has been reported all over the United States, so it’s important to stay aware of it if you own a dog.
Canine influenza first gained attention in 2004 when it was diagnosed among greyhound dogs in Florida. H3N8 still permeates the canine community, especially (but not exclusively) in Colorado, Florida, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It attacks all breeds and ages and can lead to canine pneumonia and death.
Infected dogs can pass it to each other. Humans who have been in contact with sick animals can also pass it to healthy canines. The virus has a fairly long life outside of a dog’s body: up to 48 hours on concrete, 12 hours on clothing, and several minutes on hands.
As in humans, the virus attacks the respiratory system. It is highly contagious. Dogs can develop a cough that is similar to kennel cough but is far more severe. This symptom is the first sign that a dog has H3N8 and can persist for upwards of two to three weeks. Unfortunately, this cough doesn’t respond to either cough suppressants or antibiotics.
Dogs are most at risk for catching this disease in such venues as:
- dog parks
- dog shows
- boarding kennels
- training facilities
- any location where an outbreak has been identified
Immunization is typically administered in two separate doses over a three-week period. An Austin Pet and Bird Clinic veterinarian can assess your dog’s individual risk factors and needs and suggest a course of action—or treatment if your dog has the H3N8 virus. While you may never have heard of canine influenza, it’s definitely nothing to sneeze at.