FAQ - H3N2 Canine Influenza Virus

What is H3N2 Canine Influenza Virus?
H3N2 Canine Influenza Virus (H3N2 CIV) is a very contagious flu virus that infects dogs. This virus has recently been popping up around Ontario and has already impacted thousands of dogs in over 30 states in the US. There has been no evidence of it transferring to people.

What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of H3N2 CIV can include:
- Fever (Early Sign)
- Lethargy (Seemingly tired and not wanting to do much) at the beginning of illness
- Sneezing
- Nasal Discharge
- Frequent Coughing that can last for 2 weeks or more
- Decreased appetite
- In more serious cases pneumonia can develop requiring hospital care
- Virus is mild for most dogs
What do I do if my dog is showing symptoms? 
If you suspect that your dog has H3N2 CIV your dog should be treated by a vet. Make sure to call ahead and do not just show up with your dog. If your dog has H3N2 CIV, they will be very contagious and could spread the virus to other dogs visiting the clinic. When on the phone with your vet, ensure to tell them the symptoms you are seeing your dog display and when they started. Tell them if your dog has recently been in a boarding kennel or in contact with other dogs and if any of these dogs had been coughing.

With this information, your vet will provide you with specific instructions on when and how they will see your dog. Ask your vet about performing a diagnostic test to help determine if your dog has this virus. 

How do dogs catch H3N2 CIV?
H3N2 CIV is highly contagious and is spread by direct contact with a sick dog, or a human or environment that has been in contact with a sick dog. Dogs who are coughing produce mists containing the virus that can travel up to 20 feet! However, it is easily killed washing hands with soap and water, regular washing of food and water dishes and toys, and doing regular laundry of bedding and clothes.

Is my dog at Risk?
Most dogs, no matter the size, age, or breed, can be infected if they are exposed to the virus. Dogs with the highest risk are those who live social lives, (ie. visit the dog parks) or those that are housed in communal facilities such as boarding kennels, animal shelters, vet clinics, grooming parlors and many others. Dogs who have a less social lifestyle, will be less likely to catch the virus.

What happens if my dog is diagnosed with H3N2 CIV?
Most dogs will recover at home with no complications. The most important part of your dog’s recovery is to ensure your dog is isolated from other dogs for 4 weeks to make sure the virus does not spread. Even though dogs can recover from the virus in 2 weeks, they can still be contagious for up to 4 weeks. If there are other pets in the house, then they should all be isolated in the house for 4 weeks. Your veterinarian will provide instruction on how to monitor the health of your pets and when you should call them about concerns.

Is there something that can protect my dog from H3N2 CIV?
Being informed is a great first start. Stay up to date with the spread of the virus in your community. If the virus is present in the community, be careful about where you take your dog.

There is also a vaccine that you can speak to your veterinarian about. Like human flu vaccines, the H3N2 CIV vaccine may not completely prevent infection, but it will make it less likely for your dog to catch the virus. If a dog with the vaccine does contract the virus, the dog is likely to experience a far more mild and shorter version of the virus.

Has H3N2 CIV made it to Toronto?
As of March 16th, H3N2 CIV has not made its way to the City of Toronto. However, this virus has been diagnosed in regions surrounding the City. There have been cases discovered, in Northumberland, Muskoka, Orillia and Windsor. Dr. Scott Weese, (Canada Research Chair in Zoonotic Diseases), recommends that dogs in areas where there have been positive cases should be vaccinated.The focus should be on vaccinating dogs that are at higher risk such as those in shelters and boarding kennels, or dogs that regularly go to the dog park

How can I stay up to date with the spread of H3N2 CIV?
Dr. Scott Weese is tracking the spread of the virus through Ontario and updating his blog followers. If you wish to stay informed and track the spread, follow Dr. Weese’s Worms and Germs blog through the University of Guelph here: https://www.wormsandgermsblog.com/