Currently, there is a rapid spread of the H3N2 strain of canine influenza virus in Pennsylvania. We want to answer some basic questions regarding the virus and explain what we are doing at Aardvark Animal Hospital to protect your pet.
What is H3N2 Canine Influenza Virus (H3N2 CIV)?
Similar to the human flu, canine influenza has several strains and the H3N2 CIV has emerged as a fast-spreading virus. Currently, Pennsylvania is experiencing widespread cases of both the H3N8 CIV, (one we are most familiar with in our area), and the H3N2 CIV strain. The H3N2 CIV strain spreads faster, sheds longer, and has the potential to be more virulent that the H3N8 CIV we are familiar with in our area. In addition, the H3N2 CIV strain has the potential to infect felines as well. There is no evidence that this virus infects people.
What are the symptoms of H3N2 CIV?
CANINES: H3N2 CIV effects the upper and lower respiratory tract. Symptoms include, cough (moist or dry), nasal or eye discharge, sneezing, lethargy, resistance to eating, and fever.
Please note, approximately 80% of dogs exposed will develop signs of disease. Dogs infected with H3N2 may start showing respiratory signs between 2 and 8 days after infection. H3N2 CIV pets can spread the virus during the incubation period, even when not exhibiting signs of illness. The incubation period is 1-5 days after exposure. Even if they do not develop symptoms but are infected, they can still spread the virus.
FELINES: Symptoms include nasal discharge, congestion, malaise, lip smacking, excessive salivation. If you have concerns regarding any unusual behavior, please contact our office immediately.
Some pets develop a high fever within the first few days and progress to life-threatening pneumonia and secondary bacterial infections are common, so it is important to contact us immediately if you note any of these signs.
How does it spread?
This is a highly contagious virus which is transmitted by direct contact with infected dogs and by indirect contact with contaminated environment and people.
Canine influenza is transmitted through droplets or aerosols from coughing, barking, and sneezing that travel 20 feet or more, which contain respiratory secretions. Canine influenza can be spread indirectly through objects (e.g., kennels, food and water bowls, collars, and leashes) or people that have been in contact with infected dogs.
The virus can survive for 12 hours on hands, 12 – 24 hours in environments, 24 hours on clothing, and 48 hours on surfaces. However, it is easily inactivated by disinfectants and handwashing and laundering with soap and water.
How can I protect my dog?
Dogs in close contact with infected dogs in places such as kennels, groomers, day care facilities, dog parks, and shelters are at increased risk of infection.
Talk with the kennel or any facility your pet visits to ask whether respiratory disease has been a problem and what kind of plan they have if a dog becomes ill. Is the dog isolated? Are owners of other animals that may have been exposed notified? What cleaning protocols have they put into place to decrease the likelihood of spread?
It is important to clean and disinfect objects that have been in contact with an infected dog to avoid exposing other dogs to the virus. Likewise, people who have been in contact with an infected dog should wash their hands and clean their clothing to avoid spreading the virus.
What if I suspect my pet is sick?
Call us immediately to make a same-day appointment. During your call, you will be given detailed instructions regarding our isolation and treatment protocol at our office.
Medical treatment is necessary for H3N2 CIV and may include antimicrobials, anti-inflammatory medication, fluids, and antibiotics if a secondary infection is present. H3N2 laboratory testing is available for confirmation of cases.
If you have traveled with your pet or frequently visit places where there is contact with other animals and your pet becomes ill, please share your pet’s history with us.
If your dog is showing signs of any illness, beyond seeking medical treatment, it is best to keep them isolated at home and away from other dogs and cats. Owners should contact us immediately if other pets in the household develop clinical signs.
Pets with H3N2 CIV are contagious to other dogs for 3 – 4 weeks. However, if your pet was vaccinated for canine influenza over the past year at Aardvark Animal Hospital, they have protection against H3N8 CIV and H3N2 CIV. While it is still possible for them to contract the virus, the potential for serious illness is greatly reduced. In addition, our vaccination is expected to shorten the contagious period to approximately 5 days, not weeks. However, any pet, even those vaccinated, exhibiting symptoms should be isolated until symptoms resolve.
*If your pet has been vaccinated at another hospital, you will need to contact them to see if they have protection for H3N2 CIV as not all vaccinations offer the same protection.
What protocols are you using to keep my pet safe from ill pets?
We take the health of your pet seriously and we have implemented strict biosecurity protocols to prevent transmission of canine influenza between dogs and cats at our hospital.
Animals with clinical signs consistent with H3N2 CIV or H3N8 CIV will enter our building through our Isolation Hospital which has its own outdoor entrance and operates on its own separate ventilation system Due to transmission from close contact, pet owners of animals with symptoms may not enter our facility will be asked to stay in their vehicles. Owners will communicate with Dr. Thomas and make payments via phone.
Our Certified Veterinary Technicians and Dr. Thomas will wear PPE that covers their entire body. Stringent disinfecting procedures will be followed prior to any other suspected cases entering our Isolation Hospital or any interaction outside of our Isolation Hospital with the general patients in our office.
We encourage our clients to follow our Facebook page for additional information regarding H3N2 CIV and our best practice protocol. Should you have any additional questions regarding the current outbreak, symptoms, treatments, or protocols please contact our office. We are always happy to answer any questions you may have.