Newswise — MANHATTAN, Kansas — Because of recent cases of canine influenza in the Chicago area, a Kansas State University veterinarian is recommending dog owners educate themselves on the respiratory disease and pay attention to where the cases are occurring.
No positive cases of canine influenza, also known as dog flu, have been submitted to the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Kansas State University in the past year. However, it is a highly contagious disease that could be contracted by dogs traveling to infected areas, which is why pet owners need to do their homework before taking their pet to another state.
"It can survive on inanimate objects like leashes, water bowls, food bowls, brushes and human clothing for 24 hours," said Susan Nelson, clinical associate professor at Kansas State University's Veterinary Health Center. "It can live on a person's hands for about 12 hours, so it's important to wash your hands and use general sanitary precautions like you would to prevent the spread of the human influenza."
The strain afflicting the dogs in Chicago is an H3N2 strain caused by a virus closely related to Asian strains currently found in southern Chinese and South Korean dog populations, according to Cornell University. It is not know to spread to humans. Almost all dogs exposed to the virus will become infected, but only about 80 percent of those dogs will show signs. Those symptoms are coughing, fever, yellowish-green colored nasal discharge, dehydration and lethargy. The other 20 percent will show no signs of sickness, but will still be contagious.
The symptoms of canine influenza are indistinguishable from the more commonly seen causes of the canine infectious respiratory disease complex, known as kennel cough, and laboratory testing is needed to confirm the diagnosis, said William Fortney, assistant professor and director for small animal outreach at the Kansas State Diagnostic Laboratory. Because of the amount of uncertainty about this possible epidemic, the lab is offering canine influenza testing at a reduced cost. For more information, contact the laboratory at 866-512-5650.
"The vast majority of these dogs have a mild form of the disease that lasts for about two to three weeks. They will get better with just supportive care," Nelson said. "About 10 percent of these dogs can develop pneumonia, which can be fatal. In Chicago, according to reports, the more severely affected dogs have generally been less than a year old or older than 7 years old."
Dogs typically show signs of the disease two to four days after exposure. This incubation period between exposure and when symptoms develop is when dogs are the most contagious to other dogs. Dogs can shed the virus for up to seven to 10 days after exposure, but continue to be contagious during this time. Because of this, infected dogs need to be quarantined from other dogs for about two weeks.
"My advice to dog owners is to watch the news and be aware of where the disease is across the country," Nelson said. "Unlike human influenza, this virus is not seasonal, so it can be contracted at any time of the year. Dogs that are at greatest risk for exposure to this disease are those who frequent areas where lots of dogs are in one place, like kennels, dog shows, shelters and doggie day care facilities."