- October 21, 2020
ORANGE COUNTY With the recent outbreak of canine influenza in central and north Florida, UF College of Veterinary Medicine officials and local veterinarians are advising pet owners to stay alert.
According to UF veterinary officials, more than one dozen cases of canine influenza A virus, also known as H3N2, were confirmed as of May 31. Dogs testing positive for the virus were either at a dog show in Perry, Georgia or DeLand, Florida, or were exposed to dogs present at the shows.
The canine flu is a very contagious influenza virus that first emerged in the United States in 2015 and has since spread to more than 30 states. It also has infected cats, but there is no evidence that it can infect people, UF veterinary officials said.
Canine flu symptoms are similar to that of the typical human flu — sneezing, nasal discharge, prolonged and frequent coughing, fever, decreased appetite and lethargy. It differs from kennel cough in that, if left untreated, the dog can develop pneumonia and require hospitalization.
West Orange Veterinary Hospital officials said the hospital’s first and only confirmed case occurred right after Memorial Day weekend, although they have multiple suspicious cases. Some pets came home sick after being boarded.
To confirm presence of the virus, veterinarians have to swab a dog’s nose and throat. If the flu virus is present, the dog must be quarantined for four weeks.
“Even if they’re not symptomatic, if you know your dog was potentially exposed, keep them quarantined,” said Taylor Propst, a veterinary technician and hospital administrator for WOVH. “They’re contagious for up to 21 days. Twenty percent of infected dogs will never show any symptoms, and one sneeze can (project) the virus up to 20 feet.”
The canine flu virus can affect dogs of any breed, age or health status, although dogs at most risk for exposure are those who are often socialized in group events or housed in communal facilities, UF veterinary officials said. This includes boarding kennels, day care centers, shelters, dog shows, veterinary clinics, pet stores and grooming parlors.
Although the virus is contagious, UF veterinary officials said, it has a low mortality rate and most veterinary clinics around the state are now offering vaccines. Propst said WOVH is recommending the vaccine for all of its patients. The vaccine is a two-injection series, with the second injection administered two to four weeks after the initial one. However, maximum immunity won’t kick in for another seven to 10 days following the second injection.
“We’re asking people who think their pet might have been exposed to be diligent about keeping your dogs in quarantine at home,” Propst said. “We have notes on our building that if your dog has any upper-respiratory symptoms, you should return to your car, call the office, and we’ll have them come out to you.”
Treatment depends on the level of illness the dog exhibits. Propst said if the dog’s fever isn’t too high and it is still eating and drinking, it will be sent home with medication and antibiotics to deter any secondary bacterial infections. If the dog has a high fever and won’t eat or drink, hospitalization is required to prevent pneumonia. Dogs might need supportive care such as IV fluids. So far, Propst said, WOVH has hospitalized two pets.
For more information about the canine flu, visit hospitals.vetmed.ufl.edu/canine-influenza or doginfluenza.com.
Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected]