Dog Flu Outbreak in Michigan: What You Need to Know

Reports have been coming in as early as January this year that Michigan should expect an unwanted visitor in the form of a new infection for your cats and dogs: the Dog Flu.

With headlines often sending a grim message about this new menace, it is easy to become alarmed about the potential threat to your loved furry one when you don’t have all the facts. What you should know is that dog flu is not as deadly as it seems, it already has a perfectly functioning vaccine to prevent it, and you can take precautions to lessen the chances your pet will pick it up at the doggy play yard.

Where Does it Come From?

Dog flu is actually the name of a whole class of infections which is called the Canine Influenza Virus (or CIV). Since this virus evolves very rapidly, there are many types that fall into this term, but the two versions that are traveling around the US right now are referred to as H3N8 and H3N2.

In a history of the illness given by the AVMA, H3N8 was first found in racing Greyhounds in Florida in 2004 and has since made a full tour of the US through dog to dog contact. The second, newer, virus now making the headlines is H3N2, which was first found Stateside in the Chicago area in 2015. H3N2 is a mutated version of the avian influenza virus, so it surprised few when cats started to become infected with this strain of the virus after contact with infectious dogs, making it the third species in its evolution”.

Two years after the first American case, H3N2 had spread to multiple states. It was expected to eventually affect all states in the US, in a similar pattern to the H3N8 outbreak which is already found throughout the country.

What Does Dog Flu Look Like?

The dog flu, or the viruses H3N8 and H3N2, fall into the influenza family so they affect the respiratory tract. The virus multiplies in the respiratory tissue and infects other areas of the respiratory tract in both cats and dogs. Pets infected with the virus may start showing symptoms anywhere between one to eight days after being exposed, depending on the strain. So far, dog flu has not been found in other animals or people.

According to the CDC, pets infected with the virus will have a runny nose, running eyes, coughing or sneezing like something is caught in their throat, eye discharge, fever, and lack of appetite. Not all pets will show all the symptoms (or even any symptoms at all) and the severity of the illness depends on your pet’s general health. Very young or very old animals who do not have as strong an immune system, and those who are immune compromised in some way are in more danger from the infection than those otherwise healthy.

Are My Pets in Danger?

According to an article released by the AVMA, dogs who are exposed to either strain of the virus have an 80% chance that they will become infected and show the symptoms of the virus. Unfortunately, the 20% that are exposed to the virus and do not show symptoms can still spread the virus but not show symptoms, so just because your pet isn’t sneezing doesn’t mean they aren’t passing around a visitor.

Fortunately, less than 10% of dogs who contracted the virus and became ill died due to complications from the virus. There has not yet been a recorded death due to the virus in cats. Dogs who died after catching the illness were those who had a more severe infection, and often already had a pre-existing condition. Essentially, if you have an otherwise healthy dog, they are extremely likely to recover with no problems. Your cat will only be a little uncomfortable for about two to three weeks. Your main priority, should your pet contract the illness, is confirming the virus with your vet and minimizing your pet’s contact with other animals while they are still infectious.

What Can I Do About It?

Stories about the dog flu coming to Michigan make it sound much scarier than it actually is, but that doesn’t mean you should not take reasonable precautions. Your vet is taking action now to ensure pets coming to their practice remain safe through a careful disinfection routine, both for their practice and their patients. There are also precautions you can be taking to ensure your pet stays safe even if exposed to the virus. There is a very safe and effective vaccine available for both strains of dog flu available at your vet office, which your vet may recommend depending on your pet and their likelihood to be exposed. Pets who live entirely indoors or who rarely come into contact with other pets (like those of us living out in the country) may not benefit from being vaccinated. Those who live in an area with plenty of pets or who board or take their pets to day cares will definitely be first in line for the vaccine.

In case your pet or household is a high traffic area for other pets, there are some simple steps you can take to minimize exposure to other pets in case one of them is infected. According to the CDC, the virus is spread through water droplets expelled from infected animals, either by sneezing, drooling, or chewing on items, hands, other dogs or people. The AVMA states that either strain of the virus can stay alive and infectious on objects (like dog toys, walls and bowls) for up to forty-eight hours. The virus can stay alive on clothing, collars and leashes for up to twenty-four and on hands for up to twelve hours. Kennels, day cares and dog resorts should practice a careful disinfection routine with a bleach solution, and people in contact with other dogs should wash their hands frequently.

As dog flu cannot be diagnosed on symptoms alone (these symptoms mimic many other types of infections) you should phone your vet if you feel your pet may have contracted the virus. From there, your vet will have you visit for diagnostic testing to confirm the infection. If your pet tests positive, your vet will give you the best advice for your situation on how to ensure your pet recovers fully and quickly. Always try to phone ahead to your vet to let them know you may be bringing in a case of dog flu so that they can take precautions to minimize exposure to other pets, just in case.

Paula’s Pet Sitting would like you to know we are continuing to practice sanitation and hygiene standards that protects your pets from potential infections and we are available any time you would like to discuss ways to minimize your pets’ chances of infection. Message us any time you would like to find out how we are working to keep your pet safe!

Blog author Lauren Pescarus is an admitted Cat Person who admires all pets from afar. She lives at home in Romania with her husband, and loves to buy things for the pets she will soon convince her lucky spouse to bring home. For more information about Lauren’s writing services, follow this LINK.


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