More than 1,000 dogs across a four-state area of the Midwest – including Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana – have been diagnosed with a new canine flu, H3N2. Six dogs have died of complications from the virus in the Chicago area in the past month.
This strain cannot infect humans, but people can spread it between dogs, leading veterinarians to warn owners and handlers to wash their hands and maintain sanitary conditions in areas where more than one canine is kenneled. Canines should also be prevented from going “nose-to-nose” with other pooches and kept away from dog parks for now, particularly in the affected areas.
University of Wisconsin veterinary professor Keith Poulsen advised owners that suspect their dog might have the flu to arrange a test with a local veterinarian outside of the clinic.
“It’s really no different if you’re talking dogs or toddlers, if you think they’re sick, don’t bring them around others,” Poulsen said in a press release. “It’s believed this strain was introduced here from Asia, but we’re not sure how it got to the United States.”
Poulsen also said an older canine flu strain, H3N8, has been spotted in the Midwest.
Both viruses were detected by veterinarians this past January.
Symptoms include a runny nose, persistent fever between 102-104 degrees, lethargy, and lack of appetite. While nearly a fifth of dogs won’t show any signs of infection, some short-nosed breeds like French Bulldogs, Pugs and Pekinese have difficulty dealing with the flu. Puppies, older dogs and those with a history of respiratory problems should be monitored closely.
Veterinarians also caution that all strains of canine influenza can lead to pneumonia if left unchecked. Poulsen said it is unclear if the current vaccinations will affect the H3N2 strain. Dogs with advanced cases are also given a course of antibiotics as a preventative measure.
Some pet boarders have temporarily shut down to sanitize their kennels, including PetSmart, which closed three locations. Two of those stores were reopened at publication time.