Has Canine Influenza Come to Your City?
For the past two years, the nation’s attention has been on the COVID-19 pandemic. Primarily with how it affects humans.
Scientists and medical personnel have studied it. Most people have taken precautions against it.
We’ve washed our hands more thoroughly and worn face coverings in public. And maintained social distancing when possible.
Lost in the concern over our efforts to stay healthy amid the pandemic has been this. An outbreak that is negatively affecting dogs.
LA County Hit Hard
Approximately 800 dogs in Los Angeles County have been diagnosed with canine influenza. Just in the past four months. That’s according to the County of Los Angeles Public Health.
It’s also known as CIV H3N2. This respiratory disease has resulted in seven confirmed deaths. As with COVID and humans, the number of positive cases is probably much higher. Due to some dogs being asymptomatic.
Ole Alcumbrac is the White Mountain Animal Hospital’s doctor of veterinary medicine. It’s located in Lakeside, Arizona. He’s also known for his National Geographic show, “The Wild Life of Dr. Ole.”
Here’s what he told Fox News. “While primarily found on the East Coast, the canine influenza virus is emerging. And making its way more west of the United States.”
Respiratory Symptoms Can Be Bad
Alcumbrac said that CIV can be passed between dogs via close contact with an infected canine.
There is a vaccine available. But high-risk, unvaccinated pets should avoid certain areas. Such as dog parks, doggy daycares and grooming facilities.
Those pets should also have limited interaction with other dogs. Especially those with an unknown vaccination history.
Although deaths are rare, dogs with respiratory symptoms can be miserable for 10 to 20 days. On very rare occasions, cats have been known to become infected as well.
What Can Pet Owners Do?
So, what can dog owners across the nation do to stay alert for the possibility of canine influenza in their dogs?
They should ask their veterinarian if canine influenza has been diagnosed in any dogs locally.
Even if it hasn’t, they should watch for symptoms. These include coughing, fever, lethargy and lack of appetite.
Alcumbrac said, “Clinical signs typically appear two to three days post-infection. And can be shed for multiple weeks after.”
Prevention Is the Best Medicine
Gilles Ventejol is the founder and owner of Animal Patient. It’s a science-based pet health resource.
He said, “The transmission is airborne. Or through contact of the mucosa with a contaminated object.
“For instance, if a dog puts its muzzle on an infected piece of furniture. Or licks a contaminated object.
“There is no treatment. The only option is prevention. As the virus is very contagious, it is recommended that dogs that are exposed regularly to other dogs in kennels, shelters or co-house environments should be vaccinated.”
Talk to Your Veterinarian
Agreeing with that assessment is Zarah Hedge. She is the chief medical officer for the San Diego Humane Society.
She said this particular strain has not been reported in California for six years. It was originally detected in 2015 in Chicago, then spread to other areas of the country.
Hedge added that while it’s not common, it can spread easily. Most dogs do not have immunity against this virus. Which is why she recommends discussing vaccination with a veterinarian.
“Don’t panic over the outbreak in Los Angeles, but be on the lookout. If you notice your dog is coughing or sneezing, has any nasal discharge, ocular discharge, it could be a variety of different viruses.”
Some Meds Can Help
If your dog contracts canine influenza, your vet may prescribe a medication to ease the symptoms.
They could include antitussives, glucocorticoid anti-inflammatories and/or bronchodilators.
Ventejol said none of those meds will eliminate the virus. But they “have an effect on the consequences of the infection.”
He added, “Of course, the infected dog should be isolated from other dogs or cats to prevent the spread of the infection.”
Vaccination Is Effective
Ken Sieranski is the medical director at the Hearts Alive Village animal shelter. It’s based in Las Vegas, Nevada.
He said some dogs appear to be asymptomatic even if infected. Others could display anything from mild to severe symptoms. Including fever or pneumonia.
Sieranski added, “It’s important to have your dog evaluated by a veterinarian if they are exhibiting any symptoms. The very best way to protect your dog is with a canine influenza vaccination.”
This vaccination requires two injections given two to four weeks apart. Wait two weeks following the second dose for immunity to develop. Then follow with a yearly booster. Symptoms are generally less severe when a vaccinated dog becomes infected.
Isolation May Be Necessary
To date, there is no evidence that humans can become infected with canine influenza.
But none of us wants to see one of our furry friends suffering. Especially from something that is controllable. Such as through vaccination and isolation of infected animals for 28 days.
If your dog was exposed to canine influenza but appears asymptomatic, isolate your pet for 14 days. And that includes trying to keep the exposed dog away from other pets in your home.
That’s easier said than done in most cases. But at the very least make sure they don’t share food and water bowls, toys, leashes, etc.
We love our pets more than we can express. Let’s hope and pray none of them has to deal with this issue.