Twelve dogs have been positively diagnosed with H3N2, a highly contagious type of flu, while many others are suspected of carrying the virus.

Apparently, the virus was spread during dog shows in the areas of north and central Florida. It is the first time any cases of canine influenza have been found in the state.

Image credit:
Image credit:

Currently, H3N2 cannot infect humans, although this may change if the virus mutates any further.

Protect your dog against the flu

Symptoms of dog flu include sneezing, nasal discharge, and frequent coughing. Luckily, none of the treated dogs have shown severe symptoms, all of them remaining in stable condition. Not all dogs infected with the virus display visible symptoms.

If left untreated, dog flu may result in pneumonia or other flu-related conditions, ultimately leading to death.

Canine influenza or dog flu is similar to the virus that affects humans, only that it mutated to infect dogs. There are two known strains, these being H3N8 and H3N2, discovered in 2004 and 2007 respectively.

The H3N8 virus appeared first in horses and had been known to infect them for over 40 years. The virus mutated and started affecting greyhounds in the U.S. It later spread and began infecting dogs in kennels and shelters.

Image credit: ABC 7 Chicago
Image credit: ABC 7 Chicago

On the other hand, the H3N2 virus is a type of avian flu that mutated so it could infect dogs. The disease was first described in South Korea, and it moved into China and Thailand. There have been reports of H3N2 being able to affect cats.

The first case of H3N2 in the U.S. was found in 2015, although health authorities are not sure how it made its way into the country.

Mortality for dogs infected with canine influenza remains pretty low, mainly due to some dogs not showing any symptoms at all. On the other hand, the CDC warns that “nearly all dogs are susceptible to infection.”

Preventing and curing dog flu

The virus spreads through secretions, mainly when the dog sneezes or coughs. It can also be spread by dogs coming in contact with infected objects. Dog owners should refrain from having their dog get near others that appear to sneeze or cough extensively. To determine if a dog is infected, it should be taken to a veterinary for a professional assessment.

“Dogs that are frequently or regularly exposed to other dogs – for example at boarding or day care facilities, dog parks, grooming salons, or social events with other dogs present – are at greater risk of coming into contact with the virus. Also, as with other infectious diseases, extra precautions may be needed with puppies, elderly or pregnant dogs, and dogs that are immunocompromised,” suggests the American Veterinary Medical Foundation.

To treat dog flu, the owner should take great care of its dog. This may be by administrating enough medicine and plenty of liquids. Veterinarians may prescribe antibiotics if there is an infection present.

Luckily, there is an effective vaccine for H3N2, but it is unknown the same vaccine can work against H3N2.

Source: University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine