The dog flu was confirmed in 26 states so far this season. Although most dogs will only experience minor symptoms, canine influenza can develop into pneumonia which may be fatal in puppies and older dogs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report there are two types of canine influenza affecting dogs in the United States.
Influenza H3N8 virus has plagued horses for more than 40 years. However, in 2004 several greyhound dogs were sickened by a mysterious respiratory illness.
Veterinarians eventually determined the dogs were infected with an adapted form of equine influenza, which they apparently caught from horses and could spread to other dogs. By 2005, canine influenza H3N8 virus was formally identified as a "newly emerging" canine pathogen within the United States.
Symptoms of the H3N8 dog flu range from mild to severe, and commonly include sneezing and a dry cough. Although most dogs recover within two to three weeks, the virus can develop into pneumonia.
PetMD reports symptoms of pneumonia include a heavier cough with bloody phlegm, difficulty breathing, and a fever above 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
Although there is a vaccine for the Influenza H3N8 virus, it cannot fully prevent dogs from contracting the disease. However, it is effective in reducing the incidence and severity of symptoms.
The H3N2 influenza virus was originally an avian influenza virus, which, like H3N8, adapted to infect dogs. The first cases of H3N2 dog flu were detected in 2007 in South Korea. Eight years later, the first case H3N2 influenza virus was detected in the United States.
Both types of the dog flu have similar symptoms, and can be fatal. However, officials believe H3N2 is "spreading much more easily than H3N8."
A fast-spreading form of dog flu has affected pets in at least 26 states https://t.co/ivUmF834IT pic.twitter.com/SLOlOza02ONPR reports H3N2 may be spreading more easily because dogs "remain contagious for about three weeks," and may not display any symptoms at all. In contrast, dogs with H3N8 are only contagious for two weeks.
— MSN (@MSN) February 19, 2016
As the dog flu has spread to 26 states this season, health officials are asking dog owners to take preventative measures and be aware of the possible symptoms.
Like many human flu viruses, canine influenza is spread through direct contact and respiratory secretions. As dogs can become infected by "coming into contact with contaminated objects," it is important to keep clothing, toys, and surfaces clean if numerous dogs are present.
Pet owners should also keep their dogs away from other dogs who are visibly ill.
RT https://t.co/lczT6T3Xtp Dog Flu Spreading Fast Across U.S. https://t.co/fUrfggJE5V via DNews #veterinary #pet… pic.twitter.com/julijqBOmzAs recommended by the CDC, dogs who regularly spend time with other dogs at doggie daycare facilities, dog parks, and kennels should be vaccinated against H3N8, kennel cough, and bordetella.
— George Johnson (@CincinnatiVets) February 9, 2016
Dogs who are suspected of having the dog flu should be isolated away from other dogs until they are diagnosed and are being treated.
University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine DVM Cynda Crawford said all dogs are at risk of contracting canine influenza, especially if they spend time outside and with other dogs. However, the disease may be specifically difficult for French bulldogs, Pekinese, and pugs, "because of the anatomy of their respiratory tract."
Although both forms of the dog flu were spread from one species to another, the CDC confirmed "no cases of human infections with the virus have ever been recorded."
Currently, the dog flu was confirmed in 26 states. However, it is unknown how far it will spread before the end of the flu season. In the meantime, officials are asking pet owners to consider vaccinations and to educate themselves about possible flu symptoms.
[Image via Dejan Stanic/Shutterstock]