If you’re traveling to the Midwest this weekend, you should probably leave your furry best friend behind. A new strain of the canine flu, called H3N2, has infected more than 1,000 dogs in Chicago and other Midwestern states. In fact, there’s already one suspected case in Massachusetts.
Paris, a 5-year-old terrier from Watertown, didn’t feel well after she took a trip to Chicago with her family earlier this month, according to Angell Animal Medical Center. She had a fever, a hacking cough, and was too tired to take a walk. Her owners took her to the vet, who told them she most likely caught a strain of the canine flu from a dog in the Windy City.
This strain is different from the traditional virus that the canine flu vaccine protects against. So even if your dog received a flu vaccine this season, it might not be protected, said Jinni Sinnott, a veterinarian at Angell.
Here are some information about the H3N2 flu from Sinnott:
What are the symptoms?
Just like in humans, Sinnott said symptoms of canine flu include: cough, runny nose, decreased activity, decreased appetite, and a general sense that your pet is not himself.
How does this strain differ from the regular flu?
The strain affecting dogs in the Midwest is more contagious than the regular canine flu, H3N8. Whereas the traditional dog flu usually affects dogs who are exposed to many other dogs, such as those in shelters and those in doggy day care, Sinnott said this strain has infected dogs who have only come in casual contact with other dogs.
“A lot of times the owners aren’t sure how they got sick,” she said. “This strain seems to infect dogs who are at the groomer or the dog park or maybe even sniffed another dog on a walk.”
Just like the human flu, dogs contract the virus through air droplets. Exposure to a dog with H3N2 means there’s almost a 100 percent chance your dog will become infected, Sinnott said.
What’s the prognosis and treatment?
The good news, Sinnott said, is that the H3N2 flu isn’t lethal. The bad news is that your dog might not recover for up to a month, which means no long evening walks in the summer.
“The important thing is to let them run the show in terms of activities and not force them to go for walks,” she said. “You can also heat up their food or give them canned foot to make sure they keep eating.”
If your dogs shows any symptoms, you should contact your vet. Most dogs can be managed on an outpatient basis, Sinnott said, but if your dog is vomiting, hacking, has a fever or nasal discharge, it should be brought in to the vet.
How can they avoid the flu?
If you know that your neighbor’s dog “Skip” and his family just traveled to the Midwest, you probably shouldn’t let your own dog near him. And if you do need to take your own dog with you on a roadtrip, you shouldn’t let it near any other dogs for 14 days once you return, even if it isn’t showing symptoms, because it takes time for the flu to transfer, Sinnott said.
In the meantime, you should probably keep “Max” away from the dog park, she said, no matter how sad his puppy dog face is.