A recent outbreak of canine influenza in the southeastern United States, with patient histories including participation in two dog shows in Florida and Georgia, prompted American Kennel Club (AKC) officials to issue an alert this week to AKC members. News about the outbreak has now reached the national media, and veterinarians should be prepared to field questions about the disease from concerned clients.
The AVMA has helpful resources on canine influenza designed for clinic staff and for clients.
Officials at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine have confirmed more than a dozen cases of canine influenza A virus, and animals present at the dog shows in Florida and Georgia have tested positive for the H3N2 strain, according to recent reports. Canine influenza is highly contagious. Although the mortality is low, at least one canine death has been reported from the outbreak.
The canine influenza virus can be spread by infected dogs to other dogs via direct contact, nasal secretions (through barking, coughing or sneezing), contaminated objects (kennel surfaces, food and water bowls, collars and leashes), and by people moving between infected and uninfected dogs. Cats also can be infected.
In response to the outbreak, the American Kennel Club urged participants in the affected dog shows to monitor their dogs closely, and to contact their local veterinarian and refrain from attending future dog shows if their pet shows any clinical signs; the goal being to contain the outbreak. The AKC also released a notice describing clinical signs and providing suggestions for prevention.
Preventing spread of canine influenza
Pet owners, veterinarians, and other animal caretakers can take other steps to prevent canine influenza from spreading, including:
- Disinfecting boarding, shelter and veterinary facilities.
- Following common-sense handwashing protocol.
- Keeping healthy dogs away from areas where dogs gather.
- Not sharing equipment or toys between dogs.
- Isolating animals suspected of being infected.
H3N2 canine influenza vaccines might be another prevention option for healthy dogs that are eight weeks of age or older. Pet owners are encouraged to discuss this vaccine with their veterinarian to determine if it is right for their dog.
To help educate clients about canine influenza, AVMA resources include a client handout available to AVMA members, plus a publicly-accessible canine influenza guide for pet owners and more detailed information on canine influenza for veterinary staff.
Canine influenza may be reportable in some states, and veterinarians should contact their state veterinarian to ascertain reporting requirements.