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— April 7, 2015 —
Outbreak 2015: Q & A with Dr. Krol about Canine Influenza
by Daniel McElroy Jr. & Dr. Joanna Krol

A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about the current canine influenza outbreak. We tried to pass on good and current information, but like most of you, we have heard a few different versions of what is happening. This week, we’d like to update you with the most current information we could find so we got in touch with Dr. Joanna Krol, co-owner and Medical Director of Animal Care Center of Chicago, to help answer our questions about the current canine influenza outbreak. We have used their clinic for a couple of years, for our personal dogs, referred Bark Avenue Playcare, Inc clients to them when necessary, and we use them for the rescue dogs of K9 4 KEEPS. We like the clinic a lot and can’t recommend them highly enough.

  1. How/why did this happen this year?
    “Canine influenza is a virus that relatively recently began affecting dogs. It was first discovered in 2004 and was thought to cross species, originally from horses. This means that the general population of dogs has not been exposed to influenza, nor been vaccinated against it, resulting in dogs that have no immunity to the disease. Chicago is a dog friendly city that makes it very easy for a virus to quickly infiltrate a large population of dogs. Our canine companions gain exposure through casual contact among other dogs at parks, boarding facilities, and local neighborhoods. This is a dream for an emerging virus. We will probably never know the exact source of the infection.”

  2. How is it transmitted from dog to dog?
    “The virus can be spread via direct contact with respiratory secretions from infected dogs, and by contact with contaminated inanimate objects such as clothing, equipment and hands.”

    Follow up question: We understand there is a possibility of airborne transmission. How would you describe that?
    “Airborne transmission can be described as direct contact with aerosol droplets released, for example, when an affected dog coughs or sneezes on or in the vicinity of other dogs. Nose-to-nose contact can result in transmission of the virus through nasal secretions.”

  3. How long does the infection last and how long are dogs infectious?
    “The infection can last an average of 10-14 days, with more severe cases extending to 30 days. The dogs can be infectious up to 10 days past onset of clinical symptoms.”

  4. How long is the incubation period from exposure to when the dog is able to spread the disease? Can dogs spread the disease before they show symptoms?
    “The incubation period is short, being 2– 5 days from exposure to onset of symptoms, with peak viral shedding occurring within this time frame, often before any clinical symptoms are noted.”

  5. There is an influenza vaccine. How effective is it? Does a dog that has already recovered from this year’s flu need to be vaccinated in the future?
    “The vaccine is effective at reducing the severity of clinical signs and mortality from influenza, but will not prevent the disease completely. We do recommend yearly vaccination for influenza, regardless of any previous exposure since immunity is not lifelong.”

  6. Can this outbreak happen next year? How likely is it to happen again?
    “We have seen outbreaks in 2004, 2008 and 2015 since the virus was first discovered. We can see an outbreak every year, although perhaps based on this history it is not likely to be this prominent each time.”

  7. Do we know if there are multiple strains or mutations like in human flu? Will the doggie flu shot be a different shot every year like in humans?
    “As far as we know, this virus is caused by one strain, influenza A H3N8. The vaccine itself will not be different each year as is the case with the human influenza vaccine.”

  8. I have 4 dogs in my house. Della, the oldest dog lived through the canine influenza outbreak in ’08. She has had no symptoms this time. Peace had a minor case compared to the younger dogs. He was 3 years old when the ’08 outbreak happened. Could Della and Peace’s previous exposure have provided them some amount of protection from this outbreak?
    “Yes, previous exposure to the virus will provide protection against future exposures. Immunity will become stronger with subsequent repeated exposures, for example, with regular yearly vaccination.”

  9. A couple of rescue dogs have gotten the flu, recovered a bit, and then seemed to get sick again. Have you seen this as a pattern, where dogs start to recover then seem to get sick again?
    “This has not been the classic course of the disease for most cases, however, we have seen cases where it can take up to 30 days for many dogs to clear the infection, with waxing and waning symptoms.”

  10. If this is an influenza virus, and viruses aren’t treated with antibiotics, why are vets prescribing antibiotics for sick dogs?
    “Once a virus has taken hold over a patient, the normal bacterial flora may become out of balance and allow a secondary bacterial infection to develop. Antibiotics are prescribed to prevent or treat this secondary infection.”

  11. Is there anything you would like to add to this?
    “The good news is if your dog contracts the virus, the chances are your pet will make a full recovery. Mortality rate is still very low. In our current outbreak, 1,000 cases of influenza have been reported with 5 of these being fatal in Cook County. Please vaccinate and isolate!”


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