Vets discover highly contagious canine flu in central Texas

WACO, Texas (KWTX) – There is a “sufficient outbreak” of the highly contagious H3N2 strain of canine flu in Waco and surrounding communities, according to a Facebook post by the South Bosque Veterinary Clinic team.

The clinic said it has seen a “dramatic increase in dogs with upper respiratory symptoms” such as coughing, sneezing, lethargy, loss of appetite and increased respiratory rate over the past two weeks.

All of the dogs that recently became ill were in highly social settings, such as dog daycares, boarding houses and foster homes, three to five days before the onset of symptoms, the clinic said.

At first, the clinic assumed the cases were kennel cough, since canine flu had never been detected in the Waco area. “We have now received confirmation that at least three coughing dogs in our community have tested positive for the H3N2 strain of canine influenza,” the post continues.

The clinic said that because of the cost of testing for canine influenza, the majority of symptomatic dog owners assumed their dogs were ill, chose not to test and immediately sought treatment.

“Although all of the dogs studied did not have confirmed canine flu test results, we believe there is an extremely high probability that all of these dogs are actually infected with canine flu,” the clinic said.

“Canine influenza (CI) or dog flu is caused by an influenza A virus. Two strains have been identified in canine flu cases in the United States: H3N8 was first found in the US canine population in 2004, and a “newer” H3N2 was recently identified in 2015.”

Local vets said the virus doesn’t infect humans, but canine flu is highly contagious to other dogs and can occur year-round.

Most dogs will experience symptoms and recover within one to three weeks. “However, like in humans, some cases can lead to worsening of symptoms and even lead to life-threatening pneumonia,” the clinic said.

Exposure to the virus, the clinic says, occurs at the dog daycare, boarding, grooming “or other social activities where exposure to respiratory secretions may occur.”

The best form of prevention is to temporarily limit activities that expose your dog to others.

“If your dog has recently been treated for a cough or has had confirmed canine flu, it is recommended that he does not interact/socialize with other dogs for at least a month after he has exhibited symptoms.”

The H3N2 strain detected in central Texas can be transmissible up to 28 days after infection.

“If your dog has developed these symptoms and is due to be boarding with us (or another kennel) for the upcoming holiday period, we urge you to call and cancel your proposed boarding reservation. If your dog has these symptoms and you do not cancel your reservation, please know that you are endangering other people’s canine family members,” the clinic said.

“A severe outbreak could also force us and other facilities to close, affecting the livelihoods of our employees and the availability of vacation rentals for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.”

The vets are reminding dog owners that there is an available vaccine that covers both the H3N8 and H3N2 strains of influenza. The vaccine consists of a first dose followed by a booster dose three weeks later.

“We do not currently require this vaccine, but we feel dog owners should strongly consider having their dog vaccinated if they plan to keep their dog in any of the social settings listed above,” the clinic said.

“Please note that full protective immunity to the vaccine only occurs 7-10 days after receiving the 3-week booster dose. Infection can still occur after vaccination, but symptoms in vaccinated dogs are usually much milder,” the vets said.

If you feel you would like to proceed further with scheduling your dog for a canine flu vaccine, or if you have any additional questions, please contact the clinic at (254) 776-7738.