Monday, June 19, 2017

Canine Infleunza

Have you been following the news about Canine Influenza? Whether or not you have, it's a big deal here in Florida. About three weeks ago I got the following message from a training group:
“We have received reliable information from a vet in Deland that a number of dogs who attended the Deland Dog Show this past weekend have been treated in her office for canine influenza. The same vet reports that one of her patients who attended the show (a young, healthy dog) is currently being treated in Gainesville and is in critical condition. This appears to be a fast developing strain and symptoms typically develop within a few days.”
I thought "Crap! Deland is close." I've shown there before. Then reports came in that sick dogs were coming back from Perry (GA) as well. I've shown in Perry too! What people were assuming was Bordetella (kennel cough) was actually canine influenza. Even worse, this was a newer, stronger virus (H3N2, not H3N8 which has been around for a decade). Within days the University of Florida had confirmed the first 7 cases of H3N2 Canine Influenza Virus in the state of Florida. Last report I heard there were 30 confirmed cases, with dogs sick in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. There are an estimated 300+ infected dogs (suspected and treated like flu, but not confirmed through laboratory testing). A majority of these cases are either:
  1. dogs who participated in recent dog shows or
  2. dogs who live with dogs who were in shows.

The dog show community is in a panic. People have pulled out of shows in droves and some clubs have cancelled shows completely. Others clubs are taking precautions with viruscide disinfectants, judges are not handling mouths (exhibitors are showing bites instead), no public x-pens set up, vets on sight the entire show, gallons of hand sanitizer and conspicuous signage warning exhibitors about contamination.

It not just the show community that's worried either. Training clubs all across the state have closed their doors for a week or more. Households with dogs that attended the Perry and Deland shows are asked not to return until July. I know of two June Barn Hunt trials that have been cancelled. Even the 2017 DOCOF (Dog Obedience Clubs of Florida) tournament -- a super big deal that has dog teams train for months -- has been cancelled.

I've been following the news closely. Here's some of the information that I've gleaned from my reading:
  • Canine influenza viruses are relatively new viruses, so virtually all dogs are susceptible to infection because they have not built up natural immunity.

  • The dogs most at risk are those with a social lifestyle, participate in group events or housed in communal facilities. This includes boarding kennels, dog parks, day care centers, shelters, dog shows, training classes, veterinary clinics, pet stores and grooming parlors.

  • Two different canine influenza viruses have been isolated in the U.S. -- CIV H3N8 and CIV H3N2. H3N2 just recently emerged in the Chicago outbreak of 2015. This virus is of avian origin and not related to the earlier H3N8 virus, which is of equine origin. Vets are suggesting that dogs at risk be vaccinated against both viruses.

  • The H3N2 virus is HIGHLY contagious. It's spread by direct contact with an infected dog or contact with a contaminated environment or person.

  • A cough from a sick dog produces invisible virus‐containing mists. These mists can travel more than 10 feet in the air, spreading the virus and quickly contaminating everything around it.

  • The virus is hearty. It can survive in the environment (kennel surfaces, food and water bowls, collars, leashes, toys, beds, etc.) or on people’s shoes, clothing and hands for 12 to 24 hours. However, it's easily killed by washing hands with soap and water, normal laundering of clothing and bedding, and washing bowls and toys. Take away: Wash everything and wash often.

  • Symptoms of influenza include sneezing, coughing and nasal discharge, and symptoms can last for two weeks or more. Many dogs also experience fever, decreased appetite and lethargy. More serious cases can result in pneumonia and require hospitalization.

  • It can take two to five days after infection for symptoms to appear. This means handlers and owners may expose their dog not knowing their dog has been infected. Also frustrating, some infected dogs never get sick -- yet those dogs are as contagious as the sick dogs. However, because these dogs appear to be healthy, owners have no warning to keep them away from other dogs. As for sick dogs, they may remain contagious up to a month after they recover.
Scary, isn't it? When my vet gets back from vacation I want to talk to him about the CIV vaccine. For now, I'm keeping the dogs at home (the oppressive heat and afternoon deluges help). I'll share if/when I learn anything more. Later, -- K