by Taryn Clark, DVM

It’s official: we have had our first positive case of Canine Influenza Virus (H3N2 and H3N8 virus) in Washtenaw County!

This virus, originating from Korea/southeast Asia, found its way over here approximately 3 years ago. Because this is a new virus, there is no natural immunity.

Mild symptoms include upper respiratory signs like sneezing and a cough that can last for 1-2 weeks, and ocular or nasal discharge. There is no fever, and appetite stays pretty normal.

Severe symptoms include lower respiratory signs like difficulty breathing and a severe cough that can be due to secondary pneumonia; recovery can be weeks to months in duration. These symptoms are typically seen more often with puppies and unvaccinated dogs.

Transmission rate from dog to dog and human to dog is approximately 80-100%. The virus can be spread rapidly with direct contact (kissing, licking, nuzzling, playing), cough/sneeze, contaminated objects (dog bowls/toys/door knobs and clothing) and people.

Any dogs that are showing the above symptoms can be tested for Influenza by PCR testing with a nasal/conjunctival and oropharyngeal swab that is sent to Cornell University for testing.

There is a bivalent vaccine available for H3N2 and H3N8 and it’s highly recommended for dogs that are at risk and co-mingle with other dogs (dog shows, traveling, daycare, boarding, grooming, etc). The first vaccine needs to be followed up by a second vaccine three weeks later, and then annually after that.

The flu virus can intermittently shed for up to 24 days in your dog and restriction is recommended for that duration. The dog owner whose dog is coughing and showing signs of respiratory illness should not participate in activities or bring their dogs to facilities where other dogs could be exposed. Clothing, equipment, surfaces, and hands should be cleaned and disinfected after exposure to any dogs showing signs of respiratory diseases.

Please contact us if your dog is coughing, has discharge from the eyes or nose, or is displaying loss of appetite, lethargy or lack of energy.

Typical treatment is supportive care: fluids, medication for comfort and, for severe illness, hospitalization is recommended.

[There were 77 positive dog flu cases in Michigan in July–and those are just the ones that were reported. For more information on dog flu and how to prevent its spread, visit Merck Animal Health’s]