dog flu in 26 states
It’s flu season for humans and for dogs.
Two forms of canine influenza have been affecting dogs across the U.S—and in some cases, the disease could be deadly.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that dog flu comes from two viruses, H3N8 and H3N2. The first virus originated in horses, and the second originated in birds. According to NPR, H3N2 came to the United States from South Korea last year and led to outbreaks in Chicago. The disease spread across 26 states, and it hasn’t gone away since. Cornell researchers have found 31 reported U.S. cases from December 19 through February 2.
“All of a sudden, he couldn’t breathe and he was coughing. It was so brutal,” dog owner Elizabeth Estes, who lives in Chicago, told NPR a few weeks ago. “The dog couldn’t breathe. I mean, could not breathe—just kept coughing and coughing and coughing and gasping for air.”
Most dogs suffer mild symptoms like cough, nasal discharge, fatigue, and not wanting to eat. Some dogs never show symptoms, but some can suffer from severe pneumonia; less than 10% of dogs that contract the virus die from it. The H3N2 virus is spreading faster than the H3N8 virus, possibly because dogs stay contagious longer, even if they don’t have any symptoms.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dog flu is spread through the air, through contaminated surfaces like food and water bowl, and through humans who have contact with both infected and uninfected dogs. Because the virus is relatively new, all dogs are at risk of infection, and none has any immunity to it.
So, should you give your dog a flu shot? There are vaccines available, but they are usually only recommended for dogs that are in contact with other dogs, like those in kennels, doggy day cares, and shelters. It’s not as necessary as a rabies shot, but the New York Times notes that if you bring your dog in contact with other pups a lot, like at a dog park or dog shows, you might want to talk to your vet.