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Canine Flu Outbreak: What Dog Owners Need To Know

PHOTO: Experts say the H3N2 strain of canine influenza is highly contagious and can spread rapidly in situations where animals are in close contact with each other. Photo credit: puravida/morguefile.
PHOTO: Experts say the H3N2 strain of canine influenza is highly contagious and can spread rapidly in situations where animals are in close contact with each other. Photo credit: puravida/morguefile.
April 20, 2015

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Fears of the flu for Fido are running high with many Michigan dog owners, thanks to a rare strain of canine influenza that has sickened an estimated 1,100 dogs in Illinois and Wisconsin.

Dr. Thomas Mullaney, acting director of the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health with Michigan State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, says most dogs who catch this strain of the flu will have mild symptoms like a cough, loss of appetite, sneezing, or a runny nose, that only require supportive care. But he says it can take a more serious turn.

"The dogs tend to typically get higher fevers," he says. "They tend to eventually develop difficulty breathing because they have signs of pneumonia, and in those situations the possibility of secondary bacterial infections occurs."

Mullaney says while the H3N2 strain is yet to appear in Michigan, any dogs that develop a cough or other respiratory symptoms should be seen by their vet. He stresses while many dogs have fallen ill, the fatality rate for this strain of canine flu is thankfully quite low.

Mullaney says this strain of canine flu is not a threat to humans, but it is highly contagious and can pass from dog to dog and even dog to cat, very quickly. For that reason, he says if an outbreak does hit Michigan, it's best to reduce the amount of contact animals have with each other.

"Doggie daycares, and where you have kennel situations and where you eve have dogs congregating together where people walk their dogs," he says.

As with the flu in humans, Mullaney says common sense prevention measures will go a long way with canine influenza.

"When you've handled dogs and worked with dogs, washing hands with soap and water, limiting contact between dogs, will probably reduce incidence and likelihood of occurrence," says Mullaney.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI