The dog flu is now in 26 states as the disease spreads across the country. Two forms of canine influenza have been affecting pets — and in some cases, the disease could be deadly as most people wonder if they should take their pet for a check-up, according to KFOR-TV.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that dog flu comes from two viruses, H3N8 and H3N2. The first virus originated in horses, and the second originated in birds. According to NPR, H3N2 came to the United States from South Korea last year and led to outbreaks in Chicago. The disease spread across 26 states, and it hasn’t gone away since.
Cornell researchers have found 31 reported U.S. cases from December 19 through February 2. The respiratory disease that sickened close to 1,000 dogs in four Midwestern states a year ago now has been documented in 30 states, including Missouri, where one tested positive last year.
Veterinarians are advising pet owners to watch their animals for signs of the dog flu in 26 states, which is a sudden-onset cough. Another symptom is a lack of appetite or malaise — all of which have been described as symptoms of canine epidemic.
Most dogs suffer mild symptoms like cough, nasal discharge, fatigue, and not wanting to eat. Some dogs never show symptoms, but some can suffer from severe pneumonia; less than 10% of dogs that contract the virus die from it. The H3N2 virus is spreading faster than the H3N8 virus, possibly because dogs stay contagious longer, even if they don’t have any symptoms.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dog flu is spread through the air, through contaminated surfaces like food and water bowl, and through humans who have contact with both infected and uninfected dogs. Because the virus is relatively new, all dogs are at risk of infection, and none has any immunity to it.
Although dog flu vaccines are available, they are usually only recommended for pets that are in contact with other dogs, like those in kennels, doggy day cares, and shelters. It’s not as necessary as a rabies shot, but some experts say that if you bring your dog in contact with other pups a lot, like at a dog park or dog shows, you might want to talk to your vet.
Pet owners are correct to be vigilant, Leah Cohn, professor at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine in Columbia, said, as the influenza, which can be spread nose to nose, is highly contagious among pets who visit dog parks or spend time in day care facilities. Then again, many dogs will shake off the illness and not need medical intervention, she said.
“The vast majority of people who get the flu feel crappy for a while and get over it,” Cohn added. That goes for many dogs as well, she said. “If your dog just has a cough, but it is eating or drinking well, this may be an infection that will just run its course.”
But the dog flu in 26 states can be potentially life-threatening to older pets. In severe cases, the disease could lead to high fever and pneumonia.