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Dachshund Spreads H3N8 Canine Influenza

November 1, 2009

Doc Truli heard a cough in the kennel.  A guilty-looking miniature dachshund’s big brown eyes stared back.

“Who is this boarder?  And why is she coughing?”


Adopted from a shelter, Heidi was an elderly red dachshund, who coughed ever since her adoption four weeks earlier.

“The vet at the shelter said the cough was from her breathing tube from when she was spayed.   We didn’t think it was anything,” reported Heidi’s mom when I called.  Heidi immediately returned to her home and her parents cancelled their vacation.

Heidi tested positive for the new canine influenza, H3N8, otherwise known as dog flu.  She felt fine and her cough cleared up within a few more days.

The 10 minutes in the kennel spread the virus to 2 other dogs.  An ancient shih tzu named Baby broke with a cough 2 days later.

Baby developed walking pneumonia, slept most of the day for about a week, and sustained himself on water and intravenous fluids and electrolytes for most of the week.  With intensive hospital care, Baby made a full recovery, but he scared us for the first few days!

The new canine influenza virus jumped from horses to racing Greyhounds in Florida in 2004.  The H3N8 has since spread to nearly every US state. In Winter 2009, the Northeast US boasts more cases than other regions of the United States.  Luckily, after only a few years, a new canine influenza vaccine is available to help prevent disease and lessen the severity.

The H3N8 canine influenza virus does not transfer to people.  The virus spreads through coughing and through the air, on clothing, and shoes, basically, through aerosolized moisture droplets just as a cold spreads.  The first symptoms resemble garden-variety “kennel cough.”  Coughing, sneezing, runny nose, runny, watery eyes, lack of appetite and lethargy are common.  Most cases are “self-limiting.”  Self-limiting means your dog gets better with rest and supportive care over time.  But, approximately 5% of dogs infected with H3N8 develop a terrible pneumonia and could die from the infection, especially without full treatment!

Once the virus infects a dog, it incubates for 1-5 days.  During this time, there are no signs of illness whatsoever, yet your dog spreads the virus to other dogs!  Imagine the unknown dogs your dog meets.  They could spread the flu virus to your dog and their parents would not ever know they harbored the virus in their system for 1-5 more days!

If your dog goes to the groomer, boarding, or mingles with unknown dogs regularly, ask your veterinarian for the new influenza vaccine.  The vaccine course involves 2 boosters ideally 2-3 weeks apart and lasts for a year!  The vaccine decreases the chances of catching the H3N8 flu strain in dogs and makes the disease less severe if your dog develops symptoms.

More H3N8 Info for Total Geeks (I’m not kidding…)

More readable, yet still nerdy article from the University of Florida about Dr. Cynda Crawford, foremost canine influenza expert in the world.

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