Lately there have been reports of a deadly dog flu outbreak. As with many emerging diseases, details are not finalized at this time. In addition, there is some misinformation that has floated around regarding the disease itself. Here is what we know at this time:
- There have been reports of several dog deaths due to a respiratory disease and symptoms. There have also been reports of "thousands of infected dogs across the Midwest." The first thing to note is that a definitive cause of death has not been determined.
- It is suspected that this is a strain of dog flu that was first identified in Asia in 2007. This is the first time that the strain has possibly been isolated in the United States.
- In 2005, a strain of influenza crossed over from horses to dogs in Florida. The original outbreak resulted in a severe disease in the affected dogs, with an initial death rate near 8%. This initial rate was high, likely because the affected dogs were racing Greyhounds. Once the virus began to spread to other dogs and other regions, the death rate was determined to be very low.
- The 2005 outbreak was caused by the H3N8 influenza virus. Shortly after the outbreak, a vaccination was developed to specifically target this strain of influenza. There is a big difference between the H3N8 vaccine and the annual human flu vaccine that is given. The difference is that H3N8 is very specific and targets the specific strain, whereas the annual human vaccine is a best guess by scientist as to how the human flu virus is going to mutate.
- The current outbreak is though to be caused by H3N2. At this time, there is not a specific vaccination for this strain.
- It is unknown whether or not the H3N8 vaccine offers any protection against the newly developing strain.
- Neither strain of flu is thought to be a risk to people.
- The News media has reported occurrences in Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin and other states in the Midwest.
- The Ohio Veterinary Medical Association is not aware of any cases in Ohio as of April 20th, 2015
- Looking into the reports further, reveals the actual diagnosis to be Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD). CIRD is a multi-factorial syndrome
- There is no specific treatment for eitehr Canine Influenza or CIRD, but supportive care is often successful in resolving the diseases.
- Supportive care consists of medications to target secondary bacteria, fluids to maintian hydration, medications to limit fever and otehr general care measures.
Not all dogs are at high risk for contracting the canine influenza virus, or any other potential component of Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease for that matter. At risk dogs are those that frequently come into contact with other dogs. Places that this occur are dog parks, kennel facilities, training classes, Petsmart and other pet stores, grooming facilities and daycares. To minimize your dog's risk, keep him or her on a lease and limit nose to nose contact with other dogs. When possible, avoid at the at risk activities and locations listed above. We also recommend vaccinating at risk dogs for both canine influenza and bordetella bronchiseptica (kennel cough).
If you are concerned about your dog being at risk, we encourage you to get educated on the disease/ syndrome. It is advisable to read many sources and note the common themes, rather than the few outliers. We are working on articles to continue to educate our clients. Links to various articles are included below:
Canine Influenza Outbreak (Article from 2013)
Coughing Dogs (August 2014 "outbreak")
Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD) (April 2015)
Canine Respiratory Disease Flare Up (June 2015)
Article written and published by Jeffrey R. Fink D.V.M.