An eight-state outbreak of canine influenza is causing dog-show exhibitors to keep their dogs home and the American Kennel Club to advise judges that exhibitors should display the dogs’ teeth themselves. Pet dogs are at risk if they frequent dog parks or other areas where dogs come in contact with each other. The H3N2 strain has been documented in 30 states and H3N8 has been found in 42 states, plus Washington, D.C.
The H3N2 strain primarily affects dogs, but last March, the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine and the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory documented that the strain had infected a group of cats in the Midwest and could spread from cat to cat. The disease is not transmissible to humans.
While most dogs who encounter the highly contagious virus develop a mild or subclinical case and recover in two to four weeks without serious problems, that doesn’t mean the disease is harmless. A small percentage of dogs can develop a severe form that may lead to pneumonia.
Dogs in frequent contact with other dogs – at parks, boarding or daycare facilities, shelters, pet stores, grooming salons, dog shows or other events – are at highest risk.
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The airborne virus is transmitted by contact with infected dogs or contaminated items, such as pet dishes or kennels. The virus can survive up to 24 hours on soft surfaces, such as bedding, and up to 48 hours on hard surfaces, such as flooring. Persons handling an infected dog and then an uninfected dog without first disinfecting their hands can also spread the disease.
Dogs who show clinical signs can be infective for 28 days from the time they are exposed to the virus. Infected dogs without clinical signs – a dry, hacking cough; appetite loss; lethargy; runny nose or eyes; and fever – can spread canine flu as well.
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