The H3N2 virus, otherwise known as Canine Influenza or Dog Flu, has quickly made its way across LA County. Vet clinics are overwhelmed by the number of cases, which is also affecting pet parents’ ability to secure appointments for other reasons. My own veterinarian has issued both email and text message warnings about the outbreak.
Even if you don’t live in southern California, you should still know about this illness that could affect your dog if not properly contained. It’s important to know how the virus is transmitted and what treatment and prevention options are available.
A Loud Cough Is A Disturbing Symptom
One family from Tarzana, California shared the story of their dog Blue’s illness with NBC 4. While the family was on vacation, 1-year-old Blue stayed at a doggie daycare. There, he contracted the H3N2 virus.
Dogs can contract the virus from close contact with other dogs and through shared water bowls or toys. Fortunately, the virus doesn’t appear to infect human beings or other domestic pets like cats.
Blue’s sickness sapped his energy and gave him a very scary-sounding cough. Brian Lacher told NBC4:
“It sounded like he was gasping for air and could hardly breathe. It was so scary to see him like that.”
Blue, normally a cheerful and friendly dog, arrived at the vet very ill. Encino Veterinary Center Veterinarian Julio Lopez sensed right away that his patient was not well. He told NBC 4:
“When he came in I knew something was wrong. He looked up at me, didn’t get up to greet me as usual, and put his head back down and started coughing immediately.”
Lopez added that this signature cough, a notable symptom of canine flu, is very loud and probably sounds frightening to parents. If you detect this or sniffling in your dog, they may be infected.
“If they start to notice their dog has some sniffling or sneezing, coughing, that starts to progress over a couple of days, those might be the first signs that their dog may be dealing with dog flu.”
Treatment And Preventative Vaccines
Here’s the good news. The virus can be treated with medication. There are also preventative vaccines available for the canine flu. The vaccination is administered in two doses spread over two to four weeks.
Lopez recommends parents of dogs who frequent parks or boarding facilities or have play dates get their dog a vaccine right away. Since the virus travels through respiratory particles, they may be more at risk.
“The dog flu vaccine is a great idea for any pets that are very social. So if they’re going out to dog parks, they meet a lot of other dogs on walks or for those pets that go to day care or boarding facilities.”
Just over a week after starting medication, Blue looks and feels much better. Lacher urges all dog parents to take the vaccine option because avoiding this flu would have saved the family tons of grief and money.
“If there’s a way for this to prevent your animal from getting sick or anyone else’s please, consider the vaccine. Do yourself a favor, and do everyone else one too.”
Whether you live in LA county or across the world, ask your vet about an H3N2 vaccine for your dog.
H/T: NBC News 4