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Dog Flu Outbreak on West Coast

By Amy Fernandez

Yes, it’s going around again. Brace yourself for another delightful wave of dog flu. This latest outbreak on the west coast is spreading like wildfire.

When we started hearing about dog flu more than ten years ago, there was actually more owner panic than the actual threat from the virus. Well, things have changed a lot. Flu is the new normal. The latest reports confirm that 70 dogs at the Oakland shelter have tested positive for the canine influenza virus. Maybe you recall that California was also hit hard with it last year. Either way, you know the drill

It’s the same flu prevention advice publicized every winter, you must avoid crowds, wash your hands thoroughly, etc. – especially after contact with an unfamiliar dog. This is a persistent virus which can remain viable on surfaces like shoes and clothing up to 48 hours. So keep this in mind if you frequent public places with a high concentration of canines- you know, like shows…

This flu is highly contagious. It’s estimated 80 percent of unvaccinated dogs will be infected after exposure. And once infected, that dog can spread the virus well before any overt symptoms appear.

Illness generally presents with the typical repertoire of flu symptoms–coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, malaise, fever and lack of appetite. Treatment is limited to supportive care but the responsible protocol is to keep your contagious dogs home until it runs its course, which may take up to three weeks.

Like the human flu virus, it’s rarely fatal but that can happen. Naturally, it poses a much greater threat to young puppies, geriatric dogs, and those with less robust immune systems due to stress. If it progresses to secondary symptoms, such as respiratory distress or bloody sputum, seek veterinary care. However, notify them in advance before bringing a potentially contagious animal onto the premises. It’s probably best to avoid the waiting room.

There is an effective vaccine for the strain we’re currently confronting, the canine bivalent of vaccine H3N2 h3n8. Effective immunity requires two shots and it takes four to six weeks post-vaccination to mount an effective response.

The thing with the flu virus is that it mutates constantly. There’s no getting a lid on it. At this point, two distinct strains of dog flu are endemic throughout the US. Canine influenza H3N8 originally mutated from a strain of equine influenza first documented over 40 years ago. Research suggests that it jumped the species barrier in 2004 when it was first identified in a population of racing Greyhounds in Florida. By 2005 it was classified as a canine-specific pathogen, and it’s now entrenched nationwide.

The other one, H3N2 originated in birds and was first detected in dogs throughout Southeast Asia in 2007. It wasn’t confirmed in the U.S. until 2015, but it’s already established in over 30 states and somewhere along the way also began infecting cats. So far, there’s no evidence that either strain has jumped the species barrier to infect humans. But that doesn’t make it impossible. The CDC is monitoring the situation closely.

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Posted by on Jul 5 2019. Filed under Breaking News, Featured, Health & Training. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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  • October 2019