Two strains of canine influenza, a contagious respiratory disease, is spreading in the Midwest region of the U.S., with more than 1,000 cases in at least 30 states, according to cbsnews.com
. Two strains have been identified; H3N8, which was first reported in 2004, and H3N2, a new and more prominent strain that experts know less about. About 80 percent of dogs infected have mild cases, but the illness can quickly become severe with at least six deaths reported this year.
Symptoms of canine influenza include cough, runny nose, fever and loss of appetite. Severe or undiagnosed/untreated cases can turn into pneumonia, which greatly increases the chance of fatality. There is no cure for canine influenza, but the symptoms are treatable.
A preventative vaccine is available, which has been proven effective against H3N8.
“It is not known if the current CIV (canine influenza virus) vaccine offers any cross-protection tothe new strain; but in case that it does, getting the CIV vaccine would be a logical step for owners who are concerned,” said Joni Lindquist, veterinarian at Elk Creek Animal Hospital
. “Keep in mind the CIV vaccine is not in the core vaccine protocol, and is only given if specifically requested.”
For further prevention of canine influenza, it is highly recommended dog owners in affected areas or with dogs exhibiting symptoms take precautionary actions:
- Avoid places where numerous dogs congregate, such as dog parks, kennels, training groups and day camps.
- Wash hands often and thoroughly, and change clothes after coming in contact with dogs that may be infected. Although humans cannot contract the virus, they can transmit it.
- Do not let dogs share water, food or toys with other dogs. Clean all dishes and toys often.
PetFirst, a pet health insurance company, offers plans that cover veterinary expenses related to canine influenza, as well as comprehensive coverage for other illnesses, accidents, genetic conditions, and emergency care, including chronic conditions, and breed-specific or hereditary conditions. PetFirst also offers insurance plans for senior dogs and cats and multiple pet families.