A new strain of a canine respiratory virus, H3N2, is causing concern among experts and pet owners. Here's how to protect your pet.

By Kelly Saiz
July 09, 2015
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Does your pup seem a bit under the weather?

A new strain of a canine respiratory virus, H3N2, has been found in more than 30 states, with more than 400 cases reported in Illinois (particularly around Chicago) and more than 1,000 across the Midwest, according to the New York State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Cornell University.

H3N2 is a new viral strain that originated from Asia, and is similar to canine influenza virus (CIV), which first appeared in 2004. Although there is a vaccine for CIV, there isn't one for H3N2 yet (though it's in the works), veterinarian Ernie Ward told Health.

The outbreak is radiating outward, which is cause for concern for pet owners, Ward says. But “the main thing is that this shouldn’t instill fear in people, it should instill caution." Humans cannot contract the virus, and it is not typically life-threatening for pets (most of the animals affected by this outbreak are dogs, but cats and ferrets can also get the virus.) But it can lead to pneumonia and other complications, which can be deadly.

Symptoms include high fever, loss of appetite, coughing, nasal discharge and lethargy. If your pet displays any “summer cold” symptoms, Ward advises that you first call your veterinarian instead of walking into his or her office so your dog can't infect other pets in the event he's carrying it.

If you live in or around Chicago, where the heart of the current outbreak is, the best advice is to avoid too much dog-to-dog contact at public places like dog parks and the groomer.

Others should remain vigilant if they're traveling with their pets. "If you see another dog, stay clear,” Ward advises. And if you are going to board your pet, “You really need to ask hard, probing questions." The kennel you are considering should know about the outbreak, and be able to outline the steps they are taking to prevent your dog from getting sick.

Ward also recommends that you have your dog vaccinated for CIV, which can have similar complications as H3N2.

As with human influenza, proper hygiene is essential to keeping the disease from spreading. “Wash your hands thoroughly when you handle your dog or other dogs,” so as not to contribute to the spread, Ward said. Giving your pup regular baths may also help.