Canine flu cases rising in Northern California | TheUnion.com

Canine flu cases rising in Northern California

Mia Belluomini
Staff Writer

Over the past several months, 72 cases of canine flu have been reported in California, according to Cornell University.

The rapid spread of the contagious virus from dog to dog has caused the temporary closure of boarding facilities in the Bay Area. While there have been no cases of canine influenza in Nevada County to date, it is never too soon to vaccinate your pet and become familiar with the symptoms.

There are two main strains of influenza affecting canines: the older H3N8 virus and the newer H3N2 virus. The older strain originated in horses and, after mutating, infected dogs. The virus is believed to have originated on a greyhound racing track in Florida in 2004, and was soon passed to states all over the U.S. The newer virus, the one primarily affecting dogs in the Bay Area, mutated from an avian flu virus, and was first detected in the United States as a canine virus in 2015.

All dogs are susceptible to infection from the newer virus due to their lack of antibodies that can fight the disease. Canine influenza is classified as a "lifestyle disease," so dogs that are more isolated have a lower chance of infection, and dogs that visit public places and come in contact with other dogs more often have a higher risk.

The symptoms of canine influenza include coughing, sneezing and discharge from the eyes and can range from mild to severe, depending on the case. However, it can be difficult to determine whether the dog has influenza or an older virus like parainfluenza or bordetella (the bacteria that cause kennel cough) because the clinical signs are nearly identical.

The virus is contagious and is spread in similar ways to human influenza. The disease can be spread from dog to dog through respiratory secretions, sneezing, licking other dogs, and can even be spread on fomites (inanimate objects), including the clothing of a person who has come in contact with an infected dog.

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Besides isolation, Dr. Denny Nolet of Pine Creek Veterinary Clinic suggests owners protect their dogs with the influenza vaccination, which is available at most veterinary clinics in the area. The vaccine is divalent, meaning it protects against both the older and newer viruses, and requires a follow-up booster vaccine three weeks after the initial one. Most veterinarians believe that the dog is not protected from the disease until 10 days after the booster vaccine.

When the disease is contracted, it is treated symptomatically: the treatments alleviate the symptoms. Antibiotics are only prescribed if the dog develops a secondary bacterial infection. Both strains have high morbidity rate, or the amount of dogs infect with the disease, but a low mortality, or death rate.

If you believe your dog may be infected with canine influenza, Dr. Nolet suggests the following:

"I would have them not expose their dogs to other dogs, I would keep them (the dog) isolated, I would make sure, in coming in contact with the infected dog, that they pay attention to the fact that their hands, their clothing, may transmit the virus to another dog."

Mia Belluomini is a student at Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning and intern at The Union. Contact her at ncpcintern@theunion.com.

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