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Canine Influenza

Some clients may have been concerned to hear that canine influenza has been diagnosed in Canada- wondering what this disease means, and how it affects their health and their pets’ health.

The H3N2 strain of canine influenza is thought to have originated in Asia and has spread to many parts of the US starting in 2015. It had not been identified in Canada until late last year. In December 2017, two dogs in Essex County (Ontario) were confirmed to have H3N2 canine influenza.

Canine influenza can be passed very quickly between dogs through coughing or contaminated surface areas.

Luckily, in most dogs, this virus causes only mild respiratory disease (coughing, sneezing, poor appetite) that resolves fully within 2-3 weeks.

There are some dogs that could have more serious disease occur, although this is uncommon. These are often young puppies, senior pets, or pets that have a shortened snout/muzzle (like Pugs and Bulldogs).

Diagnosis of this disease is difficult, as it can present with the same symptoms as many other respiratory diseases, often called “a kennel cough”. A diagnosis can be made by testing a swab from the eyelid or the back of the throat. Since most of these diseases are also self-limiting, they are typically treated with the same supportive care and therapy.

The good news here in Ontario is that canine influenza has only been found in one case. Since the two dogs that were confirmed with H3N2 were isolated, this ensured that the disease did not spread further, so the risk for your dog here in London is very low. To help keep your dog as healthy as possible, keep any ill or immunocompromised pets away from boarding, doggy day care or dog parks. Also, if you notice any signs of respiratory disease in your pet (coughing, sneezing, nose discharge,) keep them away from other dogs until they are fully recovered, and bring them to your veterinarian to get the supportive care they need to recover from their illness.

There is a vaccine available for canine H3N2 influenza, and it is used in areas of the US where there have been outbreaks of this disease. Currently here in Ontario, we do not vaccinate for this disease. This could change if we ever have an epidemic of canine influenza seen.

Canine influenza is different than the human H3N2 influenza (the human flu). There is no evidence that the canine version can infect people (so you cannot catch the flu from your dog). There is only a rare chance of a new virus created if a dog and human are both sick with influenza at the same time. The risk overall for healthy adults is very low, and risk is still quite low for immunocompromised people and young children. It is still recommended that immunocompromised individuals avoid contact with dogs infected with a disease, to minimize any risk to them.

Written by Dr. Christina Parker, DVM


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