Canine Flu Has Reached Knoxville! Dog Flu Outbreak Has Owners On Edge! These are headlines you may have read, seen on social media, or heard about on your nightly news program. And it’s true: canine influenza virus has been spreading throughout the United States since its arrival in 2015. Indeed, it is in Knoxville, along with other parts of the South.
However, while the headlines may seem frightening, we want to assure all pet owners there are ways you can help protect your best fur friend from canine flu. This includes becoming informed of the risks, vaccinating your pet, and staying up-to-date on what’s happening with canine flu in your area.
Canine Influenza Virus: A Primer
Respiratory illnesses have been affecting animals since…well…as long as we’ve had pets. One of the most prevalent among these is caused by Bordetella, a proteobacteria referred to as “kennel cough.” This is why many pet owners, particularly those who board their pets, are acutely aware of harmful, contagious illnesses.
The older strain of canine influenza arrived in 2004 after a group of greyhounds at a Florida racing track came down with “flu-like” symptoms. It turns out this strain (H3N8) had previously been found only in horses but had mutated to infect dogs.
The latest outbreak that’s wreaking havoc on our dogs is one that was originally found in birds as an avian flu. Called H3N2, it arrived in the U.S. in 2015 via the greater Chicago area and quickly spread. Because dogs have never been exposed to this new strain, none have built up any antibodies to the disease. That’s why we have outbreaks and why almost all unvaccinated dogs exposed to H3N2 will become infected.
What are the Symptoms?
Many dogs (80%) will experience mild to moderate clinical symptoms, including:
- Moist or dry cough
- Eye/nasal discharge
- Appetite reduction
In more severe cases, pets may experience high fever, respiratory difficulties, and dehydration, as well as run the risk of developing pneumonia. This is particularly true for dogs with compromised health, senior pets, and puppies.
Treatment and Prevention of Canine Flu
If your pet is exhibiting signs of canine flu, it’s important that he or she be separated from other animals, including cats (although rare, they can also become ill). Call us for an examination and diagnosis. In mild cases, supportive care is the best approach, including antibiotics/anti-inflammatories. More severe cases may require IV fluid therapy and hospitalization.
Preventing the flu is the best case scenario because it benefits your fur friend and many others. Vaccines are readily available to dogs and are highly recommended by our hospital. This is by far the most important thing you can do to prevent the spread of CIV.
In addition, take care to avoid places where other animals are present, such as dog parks, kennels, grooming salons, daycares, and so on. Maintain an awareness of what’s happening in your community, and avoid places where outbreaks have occurred. Also make sure your dog’s vaccines are current before traveling to any new destination.