At least 10 counties have now reported cases of the H3N2 dog flu, with outbreaks reported in places like Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando.
- UF vets treating dogs for H3N2 canine influenza
- 1st time H3N2 dog flu has been found in Florida
- 1st showed up in the US in 2015
- RELATED: UF canine influenza FAQ for pet owners (PDF)
The University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine has treated 21 dogs since the start of the outbreak, all of whom took part in dog shows in Florida and Georgia. They are also helping shelters and other pet facilities to manage the disease and have been key in raising awareness.
None of the dogs at UF died of the flu, but there are reports that several dogs died of H3N2 in other parts of the state. There's no way to know exactly how many dogs in Florida are infected and how many are being treated because there is no required reporting in the state.
The Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program is helping Pet Alliance care for the 49 dogs affected by the virus.
The H3N2 strain of dog flu is of Asian origin. It first showed up in the United States in 2015 in Chicago and spread across the country. While the first animals treated for H3N2 contracted it at dog shows, many recent cases are believed to have been picked up at boarding facilities.
While another strain of dog flu, H3N8, has been seen in Florida for many years, this is the first time H3N2 has been seen here.
Here are five things to know about the Canine Influenza Virus.
1. How does a dog get the canine influenza virus?
The dog flu highly contagious, and is spread through direct contact with a sick dog, like when a dog coughs. It is also spread in environments where dogs share spaces, like kennels and dog parks. The virus can survive on surfaces that pets use for 12 to 24 hours before it dies. It can also be easily killed by washing with soap and water.
Dogs that are very social, going to group events or the park, or day care or boarding kennels, are at a higher risk for catching dog flu than dogs that largely stay home and walk around the neighborhood.
2. What are the symptoms of the dog flu?
Dog flu is very similar to kennel cough. The dog will develop a persistent cough, nasal discharge and a fever (can run around 104 degrees and 105 degrees) during the first few days. Other symptoms include lethargy, eye discharge and reduced appetite. Some cases lead to a more serious illness and pneumonia, which will require hospital care. But the mortality rate for dog flu is low.
3. Can humans or other pets get dog flu?
There are no documented cases of humans getting canine influenza. But there are cases where other pets, particularly cats, can get the illness.
4. Is there a vaccine for dog flu? How is dog flu treated?
There is a vaccine for both strains of the canine influenza virus. However, the vaccine may not completely ward off the virus. It largely shortens the duration of the flu and keeps the pet from getting a more severe case.
If you think your dog might have canine influenza, call your veterinarian ahead of time. The disease is highly contagious and vets will want to isolate your dog from other patients at the clinic.
Make sure to let your vet know the symptoms and when it started. Be sure to let your vet know if your dog was at any events or locations with lots of dogs in the past week.
Your vet should perform a diagnostic to make sure your dog has the flu or another virus. It will include swabs of the nose and throat.
5. What happens if my dog is diagnosed with dog flu?
Most dogs will be able to recover from home. You have to keep them in isolation for about four weeks -- two weeks of recovery, plus an extra two because dogs can be contagious for up to four weeks. If you have other pets in the house, they should stay in isolation as well.
If your dog stops eating or becomes lethargic, call your vet. They may have developed pneumonia.
Also, be sure to disinfect pet areas in your home for the sake of other pets.