Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Rare form of canine influenza in Washington

Washington State Veterinarian

Canine influenza, or dog flu, is a highly contagious virus that is spread by direct contact with respiratory secretions from infected dogs. We’re talking about spread through coughing, sneezing or barking. Even contaminated inanimate objects can spread the disease.

Canine influenza is one of the causes of the canine respiratory syndrome known as “kennel cough.” Dog owners with dogs that are coughing or showing other signs of respiratory illness should contact their veterinarian. If your dog is showing symptoms, don’t expose your sick dogs to other dogs. You can consult with your veterinarian about determining whether a vaccination is needed.

Symptoms are often mild to moderate. However, as in other species that are affected by influenza A viruses, serious infection is a higher risk in puppies, elderly dogs and immunocompromised dogs.

Although WSDA isn’t conducting any tests, we’re aware current cases in King County point to a strain of the illness identified as novel H3N2. Veterinarians in many states saw the H3N2 strain in dogs last year after initial cases were reported in Chicago.

The spread of influenza viruses is particularly common where dogs congregate or commingle, such as boarding kennels, shelters and dog parks. I recommend that dog owners be extra vigilant about cleaning toys, equipment, bowls, clothing (both dog and human) or any other item that may come in contact with other dogs at any place where dogs interact.

Canine influenza resources

If you would like to learn more about canine influenza, a blog by Public Health—Seattle & King County staff is a good place to start. I also recommend reviewing the topic on the American Veterinary Medical Association website, which has answers to a number of common questions about this disease.

Dog flu is not commonly fatal, but it does spread rapidly and can cause dog owners a great deal of concern. If you see any signs of this illness in your dog, the best bet is a visit to your vet.