POLK COUNTY — A case of the canine influenza, H3N2 — doggy flu, in other words — has been confirmed earlier this week in Grants Pass.
Canine influenzas are similar to flus found in humans, except that with canine influenzas, the strains do not change as rapidly as they do with human flus. Currently, there are two strains of canine influenza, with H3N2 being the one seen in the last few years.
“It has been going around for several years in dogs; it will show up and then fade away, show up and then fade away,” said Dr. Laura Archer, Veterinarian of Ash Creek Animal Clinic in Independence.
It is much like a human flu in that respect, she said.
The initial outbreak of the dog flu occurred in Redding, Calif., and has since spread. According to Dr. Emilio DeBess, Oregon’s Public Health Veterinarian, there are 343 known cases in California, 151 cases in Nevada, one in Idaho, and one case in Oregon.
The outbreak in Grants Pass was from a dog that had traveled to Reno, Nev., with its owner, DeBess said, “where the dog was exposed to a known case of canine influenza. The owner and dog returned to Grants Pass on Feb. 5.”
Shortly afterward, the dog began showing symptoms of influenza, and a nasal sample was collected for testing by IDEXX laboratories, DeBess said. On Feb. 12, the tests came back positive; the dog has been under voluntary home quarantine since, where it will remain until recovery.
The canine influenza is an airborne disease, spread by coughing or sneezing or contact with a dog that is sick. Places like doggy day care, dog parks, agility trials, dog shows, and boarding facilities, are seen as high-risk areas for the disease to spread.
“(Oregon) has a susceptible population because the canine influenza virus (H3N2) has only been around for two years, and Oregon dogs have never been exposed. We recommend vaccination much like we would do in humans,” DeBess said.
Symptoms include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, sneezing and coughing. This disease can mimic kennel cough, which leads to many dogs being undiagnosed and thus spreading the illness around unknowingly, Archer said.
Dogs most at-risk for acquiring the disease are: highly active dogs – dogs that are outside often, at dog parks or day cares – older dogs, and dogs with short noses, like pugs and bulldogs. Young puppies can be at risk as well, due to their developing immune systems.
Some dogs come into contact with the disease and exhibit no symptoms but are still contagious, lasting up to a month, Archer said.
Dallas Animal Clinic, in Dallas, has not seen any cases of the influenza yet, with the only case in Oregon so far being in Grants Pass, Dr. Tom Keck, senior veterinarian, said.
“We don’t know when or if it will get here,” Keck said.
He is prepared for an influx of worried dog owners, though, and said he has had some people coming in that were worried because they were going to be traveling or hunting.
There is a lot of information out there (on the influenza),” Keck said, “but I would tell worried dog owners to search legitimate websites like veterinary university school websites, and websites like Merck animal health or Zoetis Animal Health.”
These are websites that have valid, up-to-date information on canine diseases, what to look for if an animal is sick, and how to get their dogs treated.
A vaccination is available for the canine influenza. It is a two-part series, with three weeks in between the shots. Booster shots are recommended annually after the initial vaccination.
Archer recommends that owners at least consider the vaccination.
“If not vaccinated, most of the time it’s gonna be fairly mild symptoms, just like in people, especially with healthy young dogs. Usually they are fine.”
But, she said, there are risks that come with not vaccinating. Pneumonia and even death can occur, particularly in dogs that have had previous health issues or are older.
“If dog owners are concerned, vaccination is key,” Keck said.
For questions or concerns, or to schedule an appointment, call your local veterinarian.