Canine Influenza

Canine Influenza in Ontario – H3N2

H3N2 canine influenza has been identified in two dogs in Essex County, Ontario. The dogs were imported from South Korea (via the U.S.) in late December and were showing signs of respiratory disease the following day when they were examined by a veterinarian. A small number of dogs that had close contact with the affected dogs also have mild respiratory disease, but test results from those animals are not yet available.

This is the first known incursion of H3N2 canine influenza in Canada. The virus is widespread in some parts of Asia and is causing outbreaks in various locations of the United States, especially in shelters. Canine influenza virus is highly transmissible between dogs, particularly in areas (such as Canada) where dogs don’t have natural immunity from previous infection and where canine influenza vaccination is rare.

A few important points should be noted:

  • Most dogs that develop influenza don’t get seriously ill. Respiratory disease that is indistinguishable from other infectious respiratory diseases (canine infectious respiratory disease complex, also known as ‘kennel cough’) usually occurs, although serious (including fatal) infections and/or complications can develop.
  • Infected dogs can shed influenza virus for a short time prior to the onset of disease. So, dogs that appear to be healthy are still a potential source of infection.
  • Canine influenza vaccines don’t guarantee protection but they reduce the risk of disease.
  • Cats can be infected but this appears to be rare.

Because canine influenza virus (as well as other infectious causes of respiratory disease) can be highly contagious, care must be taken with sick dogs. Dogs with signs of respiratory disease (e.g. cough, decreased appetite, nasal and eye discharge, fever) should be kept away from other dogs for at least two weeks. If a dog with potentially infectious respiratory disease is taken to a veterinarian, the veterinary clinic should be informed in advance so they can take appropriate precautions, such as admitting the dog directly to an examination or isolation room and using isolation precautions.

-information provided by the OVMA

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