The Cornell University College of Vetterinary Medicine says two confirmed cases of “highly contagious” canine influenza and “several reports of respiratory illness” in dogs have been identified in the Elmira area.
“The highly contagious virus is not usually fatal, but untreated cases can lead to more serious and even life-threatening pneumonia,” says Edward Dubovi, professor of virology at the vet school’s New York State Animal Health Diagnostic Center, here in Ithaca.Dogs are at the highest risk of contracting the virus at animal shelters, boarding kennels, grooming salons, canine daycare, dog parks, and other locations where the animals are in close quarters, according to a bulletin from the vet school.
Canine influenza is nearly 100% contagious. “Typically, introduction of a single dog with influenza to a population of dogs in a kennel or boarding situation will result in rapid spread of the infection, with the expectation that 100 percent of the exposed population will become infected within five to 10 days,” said Amy Glaser, director of the Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory at AHDC.
Symptoms appear two to four days after exposure and include coughing, sneezing, lethargy, fever and discharge from the nose or eyes. Dogs showing respiratory signs should be seen by a veterinarian for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
Two strains of canine influenza are common, according to the Baker Institute for Animal Health at Cornell. H3N8 has existed in the U.S. since 2000, when a strain common in horses spread to dogs, and H3N2 came to the U.S. in 2015 after being known in Asia about a decade earlier. H3N2 is derived from an avian virus that “gained the ability to infect dogs,” researchers say, and it’s the cause of a canine influenza outbreak that started in the Chicago area and has sickened thousands of dogs. There’s a current outbreak in the southeastern U.S.
Tests are being conducted to determine which strain is in our region. The Baker Institute says there are vaccines for each strain, but the vaccine for one strain may not provide protection against the other.
“If your dog is ill, keep it away from other dogs,” says the Baker Institute. “As a precautionary measure, it would be best to keep your dog away from cats as well.” The subtype of H3N2 in the Chicago outbreak has been found to cause illness in cats.
Dog owners don’t need to avoid situations where dogs might be exposed, says the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Melissa Osgood. “Just be aware, and if your dog starts showing any sign of respiratory distress, seek veterinary advice.”