There’s a new dog flu in town and its name is H3N8, or Canine influenza virus (CIV). Different than the swine flu (N1H1), this new dog flu is like a sleeping dog in that it’s only talked about in veterinarian offices and states where the virus has hit the hardest. Do you, as a dog owner, have anything to worry about? Read on to find out.
The H3N8 dog flu virus has been around for about 40 years, recently jumping from horses to dogs in 2004. One of its discoverers, Dr. Cynda Crawford of the University of Florida’s Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program, has reported to The New York Times.com that it is still unknown exactly what the dog flu virus will do, but it will kill five percent of the dogs affected. The H3N8 dog flu virus has been identified in 30 states and the District of Columbia and thousands of dogs have been infected.
What Dogs are at Risk?
The H3N8 virus is considered a “lifestyle” virus, according to Dr. Crawford. Dogs that are at risk include those who visit dog parks, boarding facilities, groomers or are around many dogs on a regular basis. Dogs who pretty much keep to themselves face a very low risk of becoming infected.
If you board your dog regularly, it may be a requirement to have the H3N8 dog flu vaccine. Dr. Jeff Davis of the Plantation Centre Animal Hospital in Macon, Georgia, says that all dogs boarded there must have this vaccine for the safety of all dogs. The reason being that if a dog infected with the dog flu virus is boarded there, it could spread throughout the hospital, requiring extra care. Plantation Centre has administered more than 1,500 H3N8 dog flu vaccines.
Symptoms of the H3N8 dog flu virus are lethargy, trouble breathing, runny nose, cough or fever. Short-nosed dogs seem to have the most difficulty. Some dogs will show no symptoms at all. If your dog exhibits any of these signs, contact your veterinarian immediately — you don’t want to risk secondary infections, like pneumonia. The dog flu virus is not considered a “seasonal” infection; it can occur at any time of the year.
Things You Should Know
The H3N8 dog flu virus can survive on almost any surface for a short period of time. If your dog becomes infected, or is around any infected dogs, surfaces should be cleaned well with soap and water or any other cleanser. It is also said to be an airborne virus.
The dog flu virus cannot be spread to humans and it is rarely life-threatening in dogs. Once vaccinated, your dog will need a booster shot in three weeks and an annual dog flu shot after that. Dr. Davis says that no side effects of the dog flu shot have been reported, although some swelling surrounding the injection site is considered normal.
Veterinarians recommend giving your dog the H3N8 dog flu shot. No, the kennel cough vaccine is not the same as an H3N8 vaccine. If you’re pet frequently communes with other dogs, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If your dog acts like he has breathing difficulties, contact your vet immediately.