While we had hoped that control of the two recent clusters of H3N2 canine influenza in Windsor-Essex, Ontario, meant that the province was again free of that virus, another cluster of infections has been identified, this time in Orillia, Ontario. Investigation is ongoing so the number of infected dogs is currently unclear, but as always, introduction of this virus into a population of dogs with no pre-existing immunity from previous influenza exposure or vaccination raises concern that the virus could spread quickly if it gets a foothold in the community.
At this time, the source of infection is not known, although a potential link to a rescue that has imported dogs from Asia is being investigated. There is no known link with the earlier Windsor-Essex County clusters. Contact tracing and testing is underway.
Dog owners in the Orillia area should be aware, but not paranoid.
Here are some key messages (for dogs anywhere, but particularly those in areas where canine flu has been confirmed):
- If your dog is sick, keep it away from other dogs.
- If you are out with your dog and see a sick dog, keep your dog away from it.
- If you have contact with a sick dog, wash your hands (and ideally change clothes) before you touch your dog.
- Most dogs with influenza get over it on their own. As long as they are bright, alert, eating and don’t have yellowish nasal discharge, we typically do not provide any specific treatments beyond cough suppressants, if coughing is excessive.
- If your dog has signs that could be consistent with influenza (e.g. cough, nasal discharge, fever, runny nose or eyes) and you are taking it to your veterinarian, make sure you call the veterinary clinic first so that they can use measures to prevent exposure of other dogs at the clinic (e.g. admitting your dog directly to an exam room or isolation area).
- If your dog is sick and has been at a kennel, doggy daycare, puppy class, or any other event, contact the owner/operator to let them know.
- If your dog is diagnosed with influenza or has signs consistent with influenza, it should be kept away from other dogs for 4 weeks (even if it no longer looks sick sooner than this).
What to do about vaccination is a common question. Now that we have evidence of three separate canine flu clusters in Ontario, it’s quite possible that this virus is spreading in different areas of the province. Vaccination is not a guarantee but it can reduce the likelihood and severity of disease. At this point, I think vaccination of high risk dogs in Orillia is justifiable, and that could be extended to anywhere in Ontario since it seems like the virus may be more widespread than we had thought.
Dogs that I prioritize for vaccination are:
Dogs at increased risk of exposure to the virus
- Dogs that attend kennels, classes, day cares, shows/competitions and other areas where many dogs mix.
Dogs that are at increased risk of severe disease if they get infected
- Elderly dogs.
- Dogs with underlying heart or respiratory disease.
- Bulldogs and other brachycephalic breeds.
- Breeding kennel dogs.
It’s a fluid situation and more information will be released as it becomes available.
More information about canine influenza in Canada and the US, as well as some of our informational materials, can be found is in the Worms & Germs Archive – Influenza. Also click here for an H3N2 Canine Influenza Information Sheet for veterinarians.