Canine Influenza as you may have heard is sweeping through Chicago and effecting household pet dogs. This virus is, at the time of this writing been documented in Illinois, and has now spread to additional to states including Ohio, Wisconsin, & Indiana. Residents are rushing to get vaccinations, no longer visiting dog parks, and staying home from daycare.
But what about people who are traveling to the midwest or east coast? Is it safe to travel with our dogs? How about those of us who have brachycephalic dogs such as Shih Tzus, Pugs, Boston Terriers and all other smooshy faces? So do we leave our traveling companions at home or do we take the chance and take them with us?
Since next month Riley and I will be traveling to the Blog Paws Conference in Nashville, TN, in May, we are taking this outbreak very seriously. As everyone knows, viruses have a tendency to travel fast! So I set out to find out as much as I could about this virus to not only protect Riley, but everyone else.
Facts About Canine Influenza
Currently there are two strains associated with this outbreak, H3N8 and H3N2. It is the H3N2 that have veterinarians concerned the most, as this strain was once thought (until Feb. 2015) to be limited to Korea, China & Thailand.
H3N8 was an equine influenza that was transferred to dogs and evolved. First seen in Florida in 2004 on a greyhound racetrack, it has since been seen in 30 states including Washington, DC. And according to a document from Iowa State University, as of June 2014, “H3H8 canine influenza virus does not appear to be common among pets”. Primarily until these recent outbreak in Chicago this virus was primarily seen on the racetrack and occasionally shelters. It seems that things can change very rapidly.
Both of these strains can be transmitted via coughing (aerosolized respiratory secretions) and contaminated objects (bowls, collars, leashes, surfaces), so it can move easily from infected dog to uninfected dog.The scariest thing is that the virus can stay alive 48 hours on surfaces, 24 hours on clothing, and even 12 hours on your hands!
It is believed that all dogs exposed to the virus will contract it, but 80% will develop clinical signs of the virus, while 20% do not show any signs at all. Unfortunately those 20% are still capable of passing the virus on to other dogs.
- cough that will persist for 10-21 days
- low-grade fever (mild cases), high-grade fever (serious infections)
- discharge from eyes and/or nose
Because the symptoms resemble kennel cough, blood tests are required to determine if antibodies are present for the virus. In addition, if clinical signs are present nasal swabs can determine if the virus is present within the first 4 days of infection.
The best course of action can be determined by your veterinarian. Luckily most dogs recover with 2-3 weeks, but for those with compromised immune systems treatment may take longer as secondary infections such as pneumonia, dehydration or other prior illnesses can take hold and cause a delay in achieving 100% optimum health.
Currently there is only a vaccine available for the H3N8 strain within the United States. Approved in 2009, it is an inactivated whole virus manufactured by Intervet/Shiring Plough Animal Health Corporation. Be aware though that this vaccine may not prevent infection, but lessen the severity and duration of the virus. It is not know if this vaccine will protect against the H3N2 strain.
So now the decision comes to whether or not I will take Riley east with me in 30 days. I must decide on the following:
- If I decide to go, do I vaccinate for the H3N8? I do not over vaccinate my dogs, and not really knowing all the side effects that the H3N8 can possess is a little scary.
- 10 days on the road prior to the beginning of the 2015 Blog Paws Conference I’m worried about the following:
- possible dehydration, as sometimes when we are traveling she doesn’t like to drink water
- Due to the effects on the respiratory system, coming in contact with this virus could be very dangerous, making her susceptible to a secondary infection such as pneumonia.
- Is it better to be safe than sorry?
So let me know what you think. I think I have my decision, but I always love to hear the thoughts of my readers.
This post is NOT a part of the A to Z Challenge, that one will come later this evening.
Rachel Sheppard says
Great info! This is definitely a scary outbreak!
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Great information. I’m glad I know have knowledge of the symptoms and how it’s spread.Thank you!
Dolly the Doxie says
As a Chicago dog, I appreciate you sharing this as its taking awhile for the news to reach outside of us, and now it is spreading to nearby states. Please be cautious and get vaccinated! Love Dolly
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Beth | Daily Dog Tag says
If you have a gut feeling, you should listen to it. Otherwise listen to your brain and the rational pros and cons.
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Victoria Carter says
While I’m cautious with our pups, I’m grateful Nashville is just a short trip down the road for us.
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Great article. Thank you. I have friends who are into various dog sports who are quite concerned about travel. I am definitely trying to educate myself through reputable sources.
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Spencer the Goldendoodle says
Wonderful post, in depth post on a topic I’ve heard so much about but didn’t know much about.
It is important that everyone be aware of the problem and take reasonable measures to keep the virus from spreading. My personal advice to people would be to relax, take a few deep breaths and have a good conversation with your veterinarian about whatever your situation might be. Panic only fills the pockets of pharmaceutical companies and opportunistic scam artists. I am personally not a fan of vaccines, but if the research you do and the advice from your veterinarian makes you feel that that is the correct thing to do, then do it. The good news from what I’ve seen is that while a lot of dogs appear to be getting ill from this virus, it is actually killing very few.
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Jana Rade says
Apparently, it turns out this is some kind of new strain. Also apparently, vaccination MIGHT help, even though the vaccine contains different type. I’m just happy we are not going to travel so I don’t have to face this dilemma.
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I think it is like diseases with humans and one has to use common sense. Older, younger, and ill dogs should be kept away from dangers as much as possible, but healthy dogs should still get walked and play with their friends they know. We will be heading to IL next weekend for a tracking test. Dogs are kept in cars, tracks are far apart, so we are not worried about it really. Katie will stay home as she is old and not as healthy. No vaccinations for us since it isn’t really a sure thing. Mom doesn’t do human flu shots either.
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Cathy Armato says
Great post, thanks for sharing these facts. I’m really nervous about traveling w/ our 2 dogs; we travel a lot in Summer and I’m getting worried. I’m undecided about getting them vaccinated, I need to have the conversation with my Vet. Whether to travel with our dogs or not, is a big decision.
Love & Biscuits,
Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them
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Fur Everywhere says
Thank you for sharing the important information. I didn’t know there was a vaccine for one of the canine flu strains.
Daniel Beatty,DVM says
One thing that you are not considering are the overall general risk factors.
Here in the Chicagoland area we have had over 1300 confirmed cases of canine influenza and 6 dog deaths, that is less than 0.5%. Basically IF your dog contracts the disease, your dog has a 99.5% chance of survival.
This means your dog has a much greater chance of dying in a car accident on the way to the conference than of contracting canine influenza and dying of secondary pneumonia; yet you still drive your dog to places.
I can understand your personal experience and yes it is horrible to see a loved one die of pneumonia, but really you were going to go to the conference before the media scare of influenza and there are certainly greater chances of harm and death to your loved one than contracting a cold that has less than a 0.5% chance of causing death.
Tzu Mom says
Thank you Dr. Daniel! I have tried not to let the media scare me, as I read articles from AVMA, Iowa State and Davis and I am trying to make decisions based on scholarly publications rather than what is on TV… and yes you are right, I did not look at the overal risk factors. Thank You… I am pretty much on the fence about taking her. I know that her overall contact with dogs will be very small on the trip as we will be going to areas without dogs running around before the Blogpaws conference. She is not a dog park kinda gal, so I don’t have to worry about that 🙂 Thank you for your input, it is highly appreciated.
Aimable Cats says
H3N2 has been reported in cats in Asia, but not yet in the US, according to Cornell.
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Tzu Mom says
Yes I read that too… I wish we could find statistics of how many dogs have been tested that have the H3N2 strain… it would be very interesting. As I know many people that own dogs also own cats.
Amy Shojai, CABC says
It is scary, and I’m not sure how protective the vaccination may be, either. Stress of travel can also increase susceptibility. Hopefully by the time Blogpaws rolls around, we’ll know more and perhaps even have this flare up eliminated.
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Tzu Mom says
I am hoping so…I’m starting to think I maybe using this as a way not to take her…. I am so worried that a 2 week trip will be hard on her… but I do have rituals in hotels with her that she loves… and she is very good with flying! Heck I even got 1st class seats for our return home from Nashville for her so she would be comfy!
Jen Gabbard says
That decision is completely up to you; myself I tend to err on the side of being cautious, but it’s a personal choice. I don’t remember hearing about a canine outbreak like this in recent history – it’s pretty alarming stuff.
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Tzu Mom says
It is a bit scary… but I’m feeling a bit more confident from Dr. Beatty’s response. I am going to talk to my vet in a couple of weeks and see what he has to say.
Pawesome Cats says
As much as I’d love to see Riley and have her be part of our big adventure, she is too precious and her health and wellbeing must come first. I presume you’re thinking about leaving her at home where you know she’s safe?
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Tzu Mom says
Yes I am… This is a scary thing… and I am always paranoid about my girls getting kennel cough or anything worse that can lead to pnuemonia. I have had a shih tzu die in my arms because of pneumonia, and never want to go through that again. :'(
GROOVY GOLDENDOODLES says
Even here in VA, I am giving BP serious consideration for my two. Jax is still so young, I would hate to compromise his immune system. So I’m also on the fence.
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Tzu Mom says
Hey Cathy, maybe we can meet up for coffee on my way through VA so I can meet the boys if you decide not to bring them… I am on the fence also, but sometimes I think she would be better at home. I think this virus just might be getting started, and I really don’t want to tempt fate.