What You Should Know About the New Dog Flu

You may have read in the paper or on our Facebook page that a new strain of highly contagious dog flu has shown up in Chicago. Concerned pet owners have been calling us with questions so here are some of the FAQS we’ve been getting.


Dog Flu FAQS:

What is the dog flu?

Canine influenza—or dog flu—is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by two Type A influenza viruses: H3N2 and H3N8.

The H3N2 virus—the one identified as causing the current outbreak in Chicago—is believed to be an avian (bird) flu virus that originated in South Korea, jumped species and was detected in dogs in 2007. The Chicago outbreak was detected in April of this year. The canine H3N2 virus is different from the human H3N2 virus.

The H3N8 virus originated in horses and has been around for 40 years. In 2004, however, it jumped species and spread to dogs in the US, initially greyhounds but later to other breeds.


Is the H3N2 dog flu in Omaha?

As far as we know, no cases of dog flu have been reported in Omaha or Nebraska; in Chicago there have been more than 2,000 cases reported as of April.


What are the symptoms?

There appear to be two syndromes of H3N2, a mild form and a severe form.

  • Mild: Dogs begin to show symptoms 2-4 days after exposure including coughing, lethargy, sneezing, runny nose, eye discharge and lack of appetite.
  • Severe: Dogs develop high fevers and often signs of pneumonia including rapid or difficulty breathing, blue-tinged gums, decreased appetite, decreased activity and/or collapse.


However, not all dogs show signs of the illness.

Note: If your dog is showing symptoms, isolate them from other animals and contact us immediately.


How serious is the dog flu?

Because the dog flu is a fairly new disease, almost all dogs of any age, size or breed are susceptible, and 80% of those exposed get it. However, most exhibit the mild form and less than 10% of dogs die from it.


How is it treated and can it be cured?

Treatment depends on your pet’s age, overall health and condition and whether or not a secondary bacterial infection (such as pneumonia) is present. For example, we can prescribe an antibiotic, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, fluid therapy or more. In severe cases, hospitalization may be required. Proper nutrition and supportive, loving care are also important. Recovery usually takes 2-4 weeks.


How is it spread?

The dog flu is highly contagious and spreads through direct dog-to-dog contact, through contaminated objects, or through the air (coughing or sneezing). Dogs that are housed in kennels and shelters or dogs regularly exposed to other dogs at dog parks, doggy daycares or grooming salons are at greater risk.

What You Should Know About the New Dog FluIs there a vaccination for it?

There is a vaccination for the H3N8 strain of the flu. Whether or not it is effective against H3N2 is unknown.


How can I protect my dog?

Because most dogs are susceptible, if you want to err on the side of caution we recommend that you keep your dog(s) away from others and if possible, you temporarily avoid high-risk areas where dogs congregate such as groomers, daycares, dog parks, kennels, dog shows, etc.

In addition, thoroughly disinfect your pet’s items (i.e. beds, harnesses, bowls, leashes) with a common disinfectant (such as 10% diluted bleach) that will kill the canine influenza virus. We also recommend that you keep your dog up to date on his or her Bordetella vaccination because the dog flu can cause respiratory illness.

YOU also can help to prevent disease transmission through regular and thorough hand washing, especially after coming in contact with animal saliva, urine, feces or blood.


What if I can’t avoid taking my dog to a daycare, kennel or groomer?

If you can’t avoid taking your dog to high-risk facilities or locations, then it’s important you confirm that:

  • Good infection control procedures are being practiced there.
  • Owners or practitioners at those facilities are aware of the flu outbreak and know the signs and symptoms.
  • They have a plan in place to isolate and respond to any dog manifesting flu symptoms.


Can cats or humans be infected?

H3N2 can reportedly infect cats but there have been no documented cases.

To date, there is no evidence of a human catching the dog flu. That said, flu viruses mutate and adapt constantly and the possibility of human infection exists. While the CDC considers the threat to be low, the agency and its partners are continuing to monitor the canine viruses closely.