Thursday, April 23, 2015

Canine Influenza and Your Cat

This is a virus that can potentially be shared from dog to cat. Why is this important to you as a cat owner? As many of you cat owners also have dogs in your family, this is especially vital information.  Read carefully.  I have added additional links for further information at the end of this blog.  Note:  strictly indoor cats with NO exposure to dogs are still at risk, as an influenza virus can be carried from a human (on your shoe or coat or hand if you handle an infected dog) to your indoor cat.  This is called "fomite" transmission and it is possible with any flu virus.
Below is specific current information outlining what is known about Canine Influenza.                       


MADISON-Canine influenza virus (CIV) has affected at least 1,000 dogs in Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana in the last month, including one confirmed case in the Madison area. Previously thought to be caused by the H3N8 strain, which has been circulating in North America since 2004, recent tests from the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (WVDL) and the New York State Animal Diagnostic Laboratory at Cornell University have identified the strain as H3N2.

"It's believed that the H3N2 strain was introduced here from Asia," says Keith Poulsen, WVDL diagnostic and case outreach coordinator and clinical assistant professor at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM). "The commercially available vaccines for CIV are made to protect against the H3N8 strain, and their effectiveness against the H3N2 strain is unknown at this time."

Neither CIV strain is related to the highly pathogenic H5N2 avian flu, which was recently reported in a commercial flock in Jefferson County; they are completely different strains that affect separate species.

Both CIV strains can cause persistent cough, runny nose, and fever. A small percentage of dogs will develop more severe clinical signs, and some will not show any symptoms at all. The infection has been associated with some deaths. Currently, there is no evidence that either CIV strain is contagious to humans; however, H3N2 has caused infection and respiratory illness in cats.

"We're advising pet owners to seek veterinary medical care, including diagnostic testing and potential treatment for dogs and cats exhibiting clinical signs of CIV," says Sandi Sawchuk, head of primary care at UW Veterinary Care (UWVC) and SVM clinical instructor.

For pet owners, UWVC recommends the following:

--If possible, get your dog vaccinated. Although it is unknown if commercial vaccines will be effective against the H3N2 strain, they will reduce the incidence and severity of disease in dogs infected with the H3N8 strain, which is still in circulation. There is no feline vaccine at this time.

--Avoid bringing your dog into close contact with other dogs.

--Wash your hands and change your clothes if you work with or are exposed to sick dogs before handling your own pets at home. Soap and water is very effective at inactivating influenza virus.

--Call your veterinarian for further instructions if your dog or cat is showing signs of persistent cough, runny nose, and fever.

What is the time course of infection?
Specific infection studies have not bee conducted with the new H3N2 CIV strain circulating in the US, but based on other influenza viruses more generally, incubation period is expected to be 2-3 days, with clinical signs last 5-7 days and viral shedding extending to 10-14 days following the onset of clinical disease.

What are general recommendations for clients?
  1. Vaccinate dogs when possible - despite unknown efficacy of current H3N8 commercial vaccines to prevent or diminish clinical disease with the new H3N2 virus - to the best of our knowledge, the original H3N8 virus has not disappeared.
  2. Maintain good general infection control principles when exposed to other dogs, e.g. limit direct dog-to-dog oronasal contact.
  3. Soap and water is very effective at inactivating virus.
  4. The virus will live in the environment for 24-48 hours in the majority of cases.
  5. Wash your hands and change your clothes if you work with, or are exposed to, sick dogs before handling your own pets at home.                                                             Influenza