How to Prevent Your Dog from Getting the H3N2 Dog Flu

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The epidemic H3N2 virus has spread to at least 24 U.S. states. Most at risk for becoming infected with this flu are puppies, older dogs and dogs with weakened immune systems.

The H3N2 strain cannot be transmitted from dogs to humans, but it can be transmitted to cats. No cats have yet been diagnosed with this flu strain.

While most dogs recover within 10 to 30 days, some have developed serious issues, such as pneumonia. Six dogs have died from H3N2.

H3N2 Prevention Tips

If you live where the flu has been reported, do the following to prevent your dog from becoming infected:

  • Keep your dog on a leash whenever you leave your house.
  • Keep high-risk dogs at home, away from other people’s dogs.
  • Wash your hands and change your clothes after you are in contact with another dog to reduce the chance of transmission.
  • Routinely monitor your dog for the flu symptoms listed below.

Susan Nelson, clinical associate professor in clinical sciences at Kansas State University’s Veterinary Health Center, said the main thing is to be vigilant about where you’re taking your dog and watching for signs of illness.

“My advice to dog owners is to watch the news and be aware of where the disease is across the country,” Nelson said in a news release.

H3N2 Symptoms to Watch For

The following are some of the symptoms of both the H3N2 and H3N8 canine flu strains, according to Cornell University:

  • Coughing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • High fever

The symptoms are typically more severe for the H3N2 strain. However, about 20 percent of infected dogs show no signs of this flu.

According to the ASPCA, dogs are most infectious before the symptoms appear, and continue to be infectious for about 10 days.

If your dog does show any of the symptoms, isolate him from your other dogs and take him to the vet. (Some animal hospitals have set up separate areas for infected dogs, or are asking pet parents to stay in their cars with their dogs instead of in the waiting room.)

Treatment for H3N2

“The veterinarian might prescribe medications, such as an antibiotic (to fight secondary infections) and/or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (to reduce fever, swelling and pain),” the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports.

“Dehydrated pets may need fluid therapy to restore and maintain hydration. Other medications, or even hospitalization, may also be necessary for more severe cases.”

Most dogs recover from the flu within 10 to 30 days.

As of Nov. 23, the new Canine Influenza Vaccine H3N2 is available. The vaccine is delivered in two doses several weeks apart to dogs who are healthy and at least 6 months old.

Photo credit: hernan.mojarro