Canine Dog Flu Spreads Throughout Country

Dog Flu Virus Spreads Nose-to-Nose Between Dogs

A veterinarian in Ohio recently confirmed another case of the H3N2 dog flu.

H3N2 made headlines in April after an estimated 1,000 dogs in Chicago contracted the virus, but now the virus is popping up in other states.

“I’m still very hopeful that she’ll make a complete recovery,” veterinarian Jodi Houser told USA TODAY Network about Katie, the 13-week-old West Highland White Terrier that tested positive for the virus May 15 in Newark, Ohio.

There isn’t a specific treatment for the flu because it’s a viral disease, but veterinarians treat it with supportive care such as fluids, rest and antibiotics for accompanying illnesses, according to Houser. While the flu can lead to death, most dogs recover.

Positive tests for H3N2 have also been reported in Alabama, California, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Jersey, Iowa and Indiana, according to the most recent report by Cornell University’s Animal Health Diagnostic Center. And a new case was confirmed Wednesday in the metro Atlanta area of Georgia.

There is no evidence that the flu can be transferred to humans, according to a statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s estimated that several thousand dogs have been affected by the virus, but not more than 10,000 at this point, Keith Poulsen, a professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told USA TODAY Network in an email.

Poulsen and the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory has been working along with Cornell University and others to study H3N2 and have formed a group called National Canine Influenza Task Force.

What dog owners need to know

USA TODAY Network: How many dogs have died from the flu?

Poulsen: We think that the mortality rate is about 2-3% or less, but we are studying that right now. So the short answer is not very many.

USA TODAY Network: How is it spreading?

Poulsen: The virus spreads from nose to nose (or direct) contact between dogs. As people travel and expose dogs to other dogs with the virus, they will bring the virus back to their hometown. This is how the virus has spread from the Chicago area to Wisconsin, Iowa and Texas. Similar to how respiratory disease spreads at a daycare or airport — people sneezing and coughing on each other.

USA TODAY Network: What symptoms should owners look for if their dog appears sick?

Poulsen: Fever, cough, nasal discharge, lethargy and decreased appetite. When in doubt, call your veterinarian.

USA TODAY Network: Should pet owners be concerned?

Poulsen: The short answer to this is “yes,” but no more than they should be for any infectious disease for their dogs.

Very young and geriatric dogs are at higher risk for infectious disease and caution should be taken when owners take their dogs to dog parks, events, etc.

In current epidemic areas, such as Chicago at this time, dog owners need to have increased vigilance to avoid dogs that appear sick and to not take their dogs to public places if they are sick.

USA TODAY Network: What should dog owners do to protect their pet?

Poulsen: 1. Don’t panic. This has happened before and is going on now in multiple species at the same time.

2. High-risk dogs, such as dogs that absolutely have to be boarded or go to doggy daycare, in epidemic areas (such as Chicago) should be vaccinated, despite a very low chance of cross-protection.

3. Avoid direct contact with sick dogs. Keep your dog on a leash in epidemic areas. Keep your high-risk (pets) at home in epidemic areas.

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