The sometimes deadly dog flu, canine influenza A H3N2, a type of bird flu that adapted with the ability to infect dogs first appeared in parts of Asia in 2007.
In April of 2015, the first case of Canine H3N2 was found in the United States. Although it’s unknown how the virus made its way here, the outbreak first began in Illinois where an estimated 2,000 dogs have been infected.
Over the next several weeks, the flu spread to surrounding states in the Midwest and made its way as far south as Alabama, Georgia, and Texas and as far west as California. For several months, it seemed as if the spread of the flu had been contained – until now. Cases of the H3N2 dog flu have now been confirmed in both Washington and Montana, proving that the highly contagious virus is still a concern.
The deadly flu has now been confirmed in 18 different states: Illinois, Alabama, California, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Jersey, Iowa, Indiana, Georgia, Ohio, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Carolina, and now Montana and Washington.
The flu is spread from dog to dog (and now, to cats) much in the same way the human flu is spread – through direct contact, through coughing and sneezing, through contact with contaminated objects and surfaces, etc. The flu is not contagious to humans.
The most common symptoms of H3N2 virus in dogs are runny nose, cough, and fever, but not all dogs will show symptoms.
In other words, your dog could appear to be perfectly healthy while carrying and infecting other dogs with the virus. Likewise, your dog could be infected by a dog that appears healthy.
If you’re living in an area where the dog flu has been confirmed, keep your dogs on leash and away from other dogs. Avoid dog parks, kennels, and doggie day care centers where dogs are in close proximity to one another or sharing toys and play surfaces.
Currently, a canine flu vaccine does exist, but it’s effectiveness against the H3N2 virus is not yet proven.
A test for the H3N2 virus has been developed and is available from a veterinarian. If your dog shows any signs of the flu or if you suspect he’s been exposed, talk to your veterinarian.