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Dog Flu Epidemic Traced To Flu Strain In Asia, More Dangerous Than Initial Reports

By Danette Chavez in News on Apr 14, 2015 7:00PM

(A healthy pup gets a check-up; photo courtesy of Courtney Mowry)

The news for Midwestern pups just keeps getting worse. The strain of dog flu that's been working its way around the city, infecting our furry friends left and right at dog parks and clinics, has been identified as H3N2, a more vicious and contagious strain than dog parents were initially prepared to contend with.

When we first brought you news of the local outbreak, area vets had just confirmed that sick dogs were suffering from canine influenza and not kennel cough. Blum Animal Hospital doctors were recommending vaccinations as a preventative measure. The cases quickly reached epidemic levels, though, and all owners were asked to monitor their dogs for symptoms like high fever, lethargy and loss of appetite.

Dog parks and doggie daycares have seen a steady drop in attendance, as anxious owners keep healthy pets at home or seek treatment for ill pups. Now it looks like that caution is especially well advised, since H3N2 is a strain for which there is currently no vaccine. That might be because it's a flu strain that we've never encountered before— the virus was previously only found in Asia and is also transmittable to cats. “We don’t know at this point how it came into the Chicago dog community," Dr. Natalie Marks of Blum Animal Hospital told WBBM. "But it’s contagious to dogs and now can cause respiratory disease in cats.”

Vets are still recommending a flu shot for uninfected dogs, since a vaccine developed to counter a 2008 canine influenza outbreak may offer cross-over protection. And your dog could still contract the more common H3N8 strain, so a flu shot is still ideal if your furry friend hasn't gotten sick yet.