How many dogs have been sickened by the dog flu? A coalition of companies that test for this newest strain of canine influenza virus, called the Canine Influenza Virus Surveillance Network, indicate almost 1,700 dogs have tested positive for H3N2 (from about a year ago through this February).
However, experts agree that in the real world, the numbers are many times what the Surveillance Network suggests.
H3N2 somehow arrived in Chicago last Spring from southeast Asia – still, no one knows specifically how that happened.
According to the official Canine Influenza Virus Surveillance Network numbers, in Chicago 820 dogs have tested positive. Cook County veterinarian Dr. Donna Alexander suggests over two thousand dogs have been sickened in the Chicago area area alone.
Wisconsin is currently grappling with the dog flu. Veterinarians there (adding up numbers in media reports) suggest a total of at least 30 to 50 dogs been sickened, perhaps over 100 (in any case, more than the 15 positive noted by the surveillance network).
The numbers from the Surveillance Network are certainly helpful to point to where flu is, and how it’s moving across the country – but they only offer a guide.
One problem is the Surveillance numbers is that they solely indicate the dogs that have positively tested for H3N2. Many times, based on symptoms, veterinarians say, “Even if this is not flu, and it’s some sort of other respiratory problem – treatment will be the same. So, why spend the money to test?” Clients then save money by not having the test. Of course, some dogs with mild flu symptoms aren’t even considered, since they may never even see a veterinarian. Also, about 20 percent or so of dogs with flu and spreading the bug, never exhibit any symptom – so there’s no reason to even think about testing those dogs.
If there are current ‘hot spots’ for dog flu, it’s Wisconsin and the Chicago area.
In Wisconsin the dog flu is spreading around Racine, Green Bay, and Milwaukee.
In Chicago, the flu is at several animal shelters, embedded in the city and identified in many neighborhoods, as well as some suburbs.
However, to be clear, these aren’t the only places in America where H3N2 is active. And new places sometimes pop up without any notice – and that’s expected to happen soon since dogs were boarded during Easter, and dogs traveled with family members to other states. And after about two weeks go by (or sooner), experts suggest we might see additional local outbreaks.
At the end of the day, the only way to protect your dog is speak with your veterinarian about the dog flu vaccine, specifically for H3N2. Being proactive, particularly for social dogs, may make the most sense since it takes several weeks for the vaccine to fully take affect.
In other words, if the flu occurs in a community, and a dog owner only then rushes out to get a dog vaccinated – it still takes several weeks and a vaccine booster to be effective.