June 29, 2017

The H3N2 canine influenza virus has been confirmed in our state by the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine. While currently Pinellas County and the Humane Society of Pinellas have been fortunate enough to not be directly affected by this disease, the instances of influenza are slowly becoming apparent in surrounding areas and HSP is becoming increasingly more vigilant

Things to know about the H3N2 Virus

  • What is H3N2 Canine Influenza Virus?

H3N2 canine influenza virus (H3N2 CIV) is a very contagious influenza virus that infects dogs. This virus emerged in the US in 2015. H3N2 CIV has also infected cats in shelters, but this may not be a common occurrence and dogs are most at risk. There is no evidence that this virus can infect people.

  • What does H3N2 CIV cause?

H3N2 causes a respiratory infection in dogs that looks like “kennel cough,” also known as a canine cold. Common symptoms include sneezing, nasal discharge, and frequent coughing that can last for 2 weeks or more. Dogs may have a fever, decreased appetite, and lethargy during the first few days of illness. Some dogs develop pneumonia and may require hospital care.

The virus is easily killed by most disinfectants, handwashing with soap and water, normal laundering of clothing and bedding, and washing food/water bowls and toys with soap and water.

  • How do dogs get H3N2 CIV infection?

H3N2 is spread by direct contact with a sick dog and by contact with an environment or people that are contaminated with the virus. Coughing dogs produce virus-containing mists that can travel 20 feet or more in the air, facilitating virus dissemination over distances.

  • How are H3N2 CIV-infected dogs treated?

Fortunately, most dogs recover in about 2 weeks without complications. Since canine influenza is a viral infection, treatment is mainly supportive. Secondary bacterial infections are very common and can be treated with an antibiotic, such as doxycycline. However, some infected dogs progress to pneumonia within the first week of illness. These dogs may have a fever, not eat, are lethargic, and have rapid or labored breathing. The pneumonia can be life-threatening without proper veterinary care in a hospital.

  • Is there a vaccine for H3N2 CIV?

Just like human flu vaccines, the H3N2 vaccine may not completely prevent infection, but will make it less likely. The H3N2 vaccines contain killed virus so they cannot cause disease. Two doses of vaccine must be given for optimum immune response – the doses are administered over a 2-to 3-week period and establish immunity within 1 to 2 weeks after the second dose.

  • Is diagnostic testing necessary if I strongly suspect canine influenza?

Yes. Diagnostic testing must be performed to rule out infection with other more commonly occurring respiratory viruses and confirm infection with H3N2. The best diagnostic test for respiratory pathogens is PCR performed on swabs collected from the nose and throat of sick dogs.

  • What can I do if H3N2 CIV is confirmed by diagnostic testing?
    • Contagious time = 3 to 4 weeks
    • Most dogs become infected if exposed
    • Most sick dogs recover in about 2 weeks with no further health complications
    • H3N2 is readily killed by common disinfectants

what hsp is doing to combat influenza in pinellas county

We sincerely value our relationship with our community and we continue to believe in complete transparency. Because H3N2 symptoms are similar to those of other upper respiratory infections, and full protection requires two vaccinations and 30 days, this virus is extremely threatening for our community's shelters and our beloved pets. We promise to alert the community to any confirmed cases of H3N2 CIV in our shelter and we are taking preventative measures to ensure the health of the pets in our care.

Due to our lack of quarantine space for transferred pets, and limited isolation areas, HSP will temporarily be postponing all transfers from out of county, with the exception of Hillsborough County. We will also be refusing any admission candidate (transfer or owner-surrender) that has exhibited signs of upper respiratory infection within two weeks prior to transfer. If vaccination is possible from the origin shelter or by owners, HSP will give preference to those pets. Internally, we will be conducting PCRs on any dogs exhibiting similar symptoms and will be isolating and treating sick patients immediately.

HSP's on site Pet Clinic does currently have this vaccine in stock and we encourage you to make an appointment to protect your pet by calling 727-791-6782. The vaccine is a two-injection process that takes between 3-4 weeks to establish immunity. If your dog is coughing and lethargic, we recommend you visit a full-service veterinarian for testing and antibiotic treatment, as our clinic currently cannot perform the necessary diagnostics required to assess these pets.

While H3N2 is highly contagious, it is also highly treatable and we will do everything in our power to provide the best treatment for pets in our care. With any questions about HSP's procedures and our response to the H3N2 virus, please contact our Director of Operations, Amanda Audia, at AmandaA@HumanePinellas.org


The information provided was developed from: