The sometimes-deadly H3N2 strain of canine influenza (dog flu) is suspected in 34 canines being housed by a San Fernando Valley rescue group that brings rescue dogs from China to the U.S.
So far, it’s thought the highly contagious virus has been confined to that group of quarantined dogs, though it’s likely other dogs have been exposed. Most American dogs have never been exposed to H3N2, so once exposed—without any built-in immunity—they will likely get the virus.
In 2015, the H3N2 strain of canine influenza made its unwelcome debut in the Chicago area, arriving from South Korea or somewhere in Southeast Asia and sickening thousands of dogs, even killing some, and eventually making rounds throughout much of the country.
Around 25 percent of dogs carrying the virus don’t become ill, so an owner can be blissfully unaware that their dog is a carrier. Sometimes people with coughing dogs do travel, though they shouldn’t. And, more people travel with their pets than ever before. So, it’s no surprise that H3N2 has spread so quickly around the country.
However, if it is true that the rescued Chinese dogs brought the flu with them, as much as rescue dogs should be supported, something needs to be done.
Certainly, dogs can and should be health checked before departing their country of origin. However, veterinary expertise is “iffy” in some places. Also, as mentioned, a dog may appear perfectly normal without a single symptom and still shed (spread) the flu virus. A mandatory quarantine and a mandatory vaccine for dog flu (and other vaccines) may be in order for all dogs entering the country (without owners) from Southeast Asia.
Increasingly, veterinarians are recommending all social dogs receive the bivalent flu vaccine (this vaccine protects against both known strains of dog flu: H3N2 and H3N8.
Learn more about the dog flu HERE.