One particular strain of canine flu has reached the shores of Canada, thankfully there have been no cases in Central Alberta.
While there have been no reported cases of the H3N2 flu, which affects canines only, Sylvan Lake veterinarian Dr. Sandy Jameson says it’s important to always be aware and careful when it comes to the health of your pets.
“Cases of the dog flu are on the rise this year, luckily all the cases in Canada have been isolated in southwestern Ontario,” Dr. Jameson said in a recent phone interview.
While Jameson does not expect the dog flu to become an issue in the area, she says pet owners still need to be made aware of the possibility.
This is especially true because the dog flu is extremely contagious and it is easy for dogs to pick up the illness.
Dogs are more likely to contract the flu from heavily populated areas, such as parks or a kennel, where they have a higher risk of coming into contact with an infected dog, according to Jameson.
“It is passed through mucus secretions in the nose as well as through coughing.”
It can be difficult to distinguish symptoms of the flu in dogs, as many of the symptoms are similar to kennel cough.
Jameson said a dog suffering from H3N2 will have a wet cough, a fever, mucus secretions from the nasal passages and will experience lethargy.
If a pet owner suspects their dog is infected with the viral disease, the best course of action is to give it supportive care.
Like the strain of the flu that affects humans, the canine flu is a virus and cannot be helped along through antibiotics.
“We call it supportive care because we are trying to encourage the body’s own antibodies to fight off the virus.
“A real danger with the dog flu is the risk of a bacterial infection in places like the lungs,” said Dr. Jameson.
If a pet owner suspects a bacterial infection, Jameson suggests taking the pet into the vet for antibiotics.
“In some cases we will put a dog [fighting the canine flu] on an IV and broad spectrum antibiotics to help stop a possible bacterial infection,” Jameson said.
There is a vaccine available for the dog flu, similar to the flu shots humans are encouraged to get every year. While the shot is available, Jameson does not believe it is something that should be included in a pet’s regular vaccination.
She says the shot will be administered if there is planned travel to an area where the flu shot is prevalent.
“The dog flu has been fairly rampant in Asia for a number of years, and there have been many cases in the United States in recent years.”
For instance, one clinic in San Francisco, which is a relatively active destination for tourists, has seen as many as 50 cases of dog flu in only two weeks.
Before travelling with your pet, Jameson suggests doing a bit of research to see if there have been cases of dog flu in the area.
A great resource for pet owners is the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine which has a map of the United States where confirmed cases of the H3N2 strain of the canine flu have been found.
“We usually ask owners if they plan on travelling to try to find out if a flu shot is needed. …the map is a great resource to use before coming into the vet,” said Jameson.
No matter what, Jameson says to use your vet as a main resource. She says it is really important to go to your vet with concerns or questions, as the internet can only tell you so much, and will likely not be specific to your case.
In Canada there have been seven cases of the H3N2 strain of the canine flu. Two of those cases where greyhounds brought to Ontario from Detroit, and previously where in South Korea.
All reported cases in Canada are from Ontario. In the United States there have been confirmed cases in Florida, California, Pennsylvania and Washington, to name few.