Canine flu: answers to frequently asked questions

Who: dogs can catch their own strain of the flu (H3N8) which is highly contagious and rapidly spread through aerosolized respiratory secretions; young puppies and sick or elderly dogs with other diseases tend to be hardest hit when exposed.

What: symptoms include a combination of coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, fever and tiredness but can progress to fatal hemorrhagic pneumonia; 80-90% of exposed dogs show symptoms and 8% of dogs that develop pneumonia do not survive (smooshed nosed breeds like Pugs are particularly at risk).

When & Where: contact with other dogs or to contaminated surfaces (primarily indoors) increases the chance of exposure; travel to areas of the country where H3N8 is endemic also poses greater risk (it has already been documented in 38 states, including Massachusetts).

Why: the horse H7N7 influenza virus jumped species to create H3N8 in dogs (which was first discovered in 2004 following an outbreak of severe respiratory illness at a Greyhound racing facility in Florida in which 1/3 of the dogs died).

Moving forward: although canine influenza hasn’t yet reared it’s head here on the North Shore, a few regional boarding facilities have started requiring the H3N8 vaccine; learn more at www.doginfluenza.com.