Dog flu is spreading. And now, the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando has suspended dog adoptions because of an outbreak of the virus. This suspension is expected to continue at the Orlando shelter for up to another month. The challenge now will be ridding the virus from the facility.
The shelter’s statement:
“Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando has confirmed two dogs with the H3N2 virus in the Orlando shelter located at 2727 Conroy Road. Additionally, 29 dogs have symptoms related to this flu-like virus.
We will suspend dog adoptions in our Orlando location until further notice. We are still adopting cats from our Orlando location. Also, our Sanford location is open for dog and cat adoptions.
We expect all of the dogs to fully recover, but treatment will take a few weeks. We are reaching out to those that adopted a dog from our Orlando shelter since June 7.
On Sunday, June 25, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., the shelter is offering the initial H3N2 flu vaccine at our Orlando location for only $10. This will be inside of our mobile clinic in the parking of the Orlando facility.
A limit of 200 vaccines are available to the public. No appointments will be taken. This is first-come, first-served. A booster shot will also be required approximately 3 weeks after the initial vaccination. Other vaccinations are also available. 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 your veterinarian for testing and antibiotic treatment.”
Dr. Cynda Crawford, clinical assistant professor at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville says, “Having H3N2 hit shelters is exactly what we don’t want to have happen. In many ways this is the worst possible fear.”
H3N2 is a flu strain different than the one that was identified in Florida in 2008, called H3N8. The H3N2 strain somehow arrived from Southeast Asia into Chicago and took the Windy City by storm in the spring of 2015. As dogs traveled around the U.S., so did the virus into 2016. However, this year, while the virus remained endemic in Chicago, it seemed quiet in most places around the country. That was until H3N2 apparently took hold at American Kennel Club dog shows in Perry, Georgia, and DeLand, Florida. It didn’t take long for the virus to spread.
While a guess—and it is only a guess—of 300 to 400 dogs have been sickened, and a handful have died, the virus, still, for the most part, remained contained. While dogs participating in dog shows may go home several states away, potentially exposing communities previously unexposed to the dog flu, exhibitors at dog shows often don’t interact with pet dogs all that much. However, luck may have run out by the flu hitting an animal shelter.
There are many questions now, including how many dogs unknowingly were adopted out of the shelter and are about to spread the flu into the general population?
Three facts about H3N2:
- H3N2 is virulent, sickening more dogs more seriously than the more benign H3N8 flu strain.
- Most any dog exposed to the virus (unless vaccinated, or unless recently sickened by the virus) will get the virus.
- Not all dogs that get the virus get sick, Around 20 percent spread the virus—remaining contagious—but don’t get symptoms. Their owners, or, in this case, adoption counselors at the shelter, have no way to know they’re carrying the virus because they are totally asymptomatic.
Meanwhile, in New York state, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine says two confirmed cases of “highly contagious” canine influenza and “several reports of respiratory illness” in dogs have been identified in the Elmira, New York, area. However, there are unconfirmed reports that far more dogs have been sickened—some even dying—in New York state.
Why are estimates of flu and confirmed reports often different? Most pet owners don’t pay to test for the virus. Veterinarians can often treat based on symptoms, and want to start treatment without waiting for test results to come back, although without confirming the flu or not, and which strain of flu is the best medicine.
Also, for those that exhibit dogs in shows, if one dog at a kennel is confirmed to have H3N2, it’s obvious that other dogs at the kennel with the same symptoms are likely to have the same virus.
Since most dogs are not actually tested, one can only surmise the instances of dog flu. And veterinarians have no CDC for animals to report expected occurrences. What’s worse is that some dogs with flu may be co-infected with an additional upper respiratory virus.
No matter, this current H3N2 outbreak has hit 12 states (Chicago doesn’t count since H3N2 lives there all the time). States with confirmed H3N2 are currently California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Illinois. Some states appear to have only a few sick dogs, while others have many more.