By Dr. Angela Gaeto, DVM, of the Helen Woodward Animal Center community in San Diego County.
More than 1,000 dogs in the Chicago area have been diagnosed with a new strain of canine flu. While there are currently no California cases, the flu is very contagious and we may see cases across the country. The recent Chicago strain is new to the United States. This flu cannot be transmitted to humans, but there is evidence it can be passed to felines.
The flu virus is spread through direct contact with an infected animal, contaminated surfaces, or objects infected animals have come in contact with. Dogs that aren’t yet showing flu symptoms are the most infectious.
Symptoms include high fever, loss of appetite, coughing, nasal discharge and lethargy. Cases of the new strain are showing more severe extremes of these symptoms. Some infected animals may show no symptoms at all, which makes spreading the illness incredibly easy.
It is currently unknown whether the widely available canine influenza vaccine is protective against the new strain of virus. Vaccines are available for the most common strains of flu in North America, including the strain first identified in the US in 2004.
Dogs or cats with symptoms of influenza should be seen by their veterinarian.
Simple Ways to Protect Your Pup:
• Make sure you stay updated with news of the illness to make sure you’re taking necessary precautions if it starts to become more prevalent in your community.
• Since dogs are the only animals that carry canine influenza, the most effective measure you can take against the illness is to avoid dog parks, dog beaches, puppy playgroups, and boarding kennels if the flu shows up in your area.
• Wash your hands after touching other dogs and before touching your dog.
• Change your clothes after interacting with other dogs.
• Isolate dogs with the flu for two weeks after symptoms arise.
• Disinfect hard surfaces, toys, and bowls used by other dogs. (The flu virus can survive for 48 hours on contaminated objects.)
• Ask your veterinarian if it’s worth getting your dog vaccinated against the basic flu strain.
Photo Credit: Yoel Ben-Avraham (CC)