An outbreak of canine influenza in the Chicago area has been widely reported on by the news media. Also being reported by local news services is the shutdown of the Gwinnett Animal Shelter due to dogs having a severe respiratory infection. Since we have had many phone calls concerning these news stories, I am writing to inform dog owners in the Oakwood, Gainesville, Flowery Branch and the Hall County, Georgia area about what is going on and how it might affect their pet.
The first reports of canine flu in this country occurred in 2004 and the cases were located mostly at dog tracks. Since that time the flu has been reported in at least 30 states. In 2009 there was a vaccine approved for the H3N8 strain of canine influenza. Like the human flu vaccine, the dog vaccine may not prevent the disease but should make the disease much less severe. At Family Pet Clinic, we have not been recommending routinely that all dogs be vaccinated since the occurrence of canine flu in Georgia has been sparse.
The outbreak of canine influenza in Chicago and the mid-west has infected more than 1,000 dogs. It has now been determined that the influenza being seen in this area is a new strain to the United States, the H3N2 virus. Both Influenza strains can cause high fever, loss of appetite, coughing, nasal discharge, and lethargy. It is not known at this time if the vaccination against the original H3N8 strain will protect against this new H3N2 strain.
Exposure to the virus comes from other dogs, in situations such as boarding, dog parks, or other activities where contact with respiratory secretions may occur. If our area becomes affected, for prevention we recommend temporarily limiting those activities that expose your dog to others.
It’s also worth noting that the H3N2 virus has caused infection and respiratory illness in cats, so if your cat goes outside or socializes with cats who do, keep an eye out for these signs, as well.
As far as the situation at the Gwinnett Animal Shelter, they released a statement last week: “The University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine (Athens Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory) testing results now show that Bordetella bronchiseptica associated with Mycoplasma and Canine adenovirus-2 were present in the tissues of the deceased dog. The original samples tested gave a negative result for Bordetella bronchiseptica and positive results for Mycoplasma and Canine adenovirus-2. However, subsequent testing from an additional sample, in which the UGA pathologist had visualized an organism, resulted in the isolation and identification of Bordetella bronchiseptica. A Director/Professor at Athens Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory refers to these illnesses as “common kennel cough agents.”
The Shelter had indicated earlier that one dog had tested negative for all strains of canine influenza.
At Family Pet Clinic, we will continue to monitor both of these situations, and update you if there are any changes. Unless the infections of canine influenza H3N2 become more widespread, we do not recommend the canine influenza vaccine as a core vaccination. It might be recommended on an individual basis depending on an individual dog’s lifestyle.