According to data published by the County of Los Angeles Public Health from July 2021 to October 2021, the dog flu – also known as CIV H3N2 – had been detected in approximately 800 canines in Los Angeles County.
In that three-month period, seven deaths have been reported have been associated with the virus.
FOX 11 Los Angeles reporter Gigi Graciette is one of the hundreds of Angelinos who have been directly impacted by the canine influenza outbreak.
Graciette’s two rescue dogs – Miss Maywood and Casper – are currently battling the virus. Both dogs are more than a decade old and couldn’t be vaccinated for CIV H3N2 due to underlying conditions, she told FOX 11.
"One of them may not make it. And, the other one is struggling," she told the local news station.
Miss Maywood is experiencing kidney failure while Casper has developed pneumonia and needs to be nebulized several times a day to help him breathe.
"While primarily found on the East Coast, the Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) is emerging and making its way more west of the United States," said White Mountain Animal Hospital’s doctor of veterinary medicine Ole Alcumbrac – who’s also the face of Nat Geo Wild’s "The Wild Life of Dr. Ole."
"CIV can be passed between dogs via close contact with an infected canine," he continued. "There is a vaccine available, but in a general sense, high-risk, unvaccinated pets should avoid high dog-population areas such as dog parks, doggy daycares, and grooming facilities; and they should have limited interaction with other dogs with unknown vaccination history."
According to Alcumbrac, canine influenza symptoms can include coughing, fever, general lethargy and inappetence.
"In rare cases, CIV can be deadly," Alcumbrac added. "Clinical signs typically appear two to three days post-infection and can be shed for multiple weeks after."
Like other viruses, little can be done once the infection has set in.
Influenza in particular is a contagious respiratory virus that can last between 10 and 20 days, according to animal health specialist Gilles Ventejol – the founder and owner of Animal Patient, a science-based pet health resource.
"The transmission is airborne or through contact of the mucosa with a contaminated object. For instance, if a dog puts its muzzle on an infected piece of furniture or licks a contaminated object," Ventejol explained. "There is no treatment. The only option is prevention. As the virus is very contagious, it is recommended that dogs that are exposed regularly to other dogs in kennels, shelters, or co-house environments should be vaccinated."
Pet owners who wish to ease their dog’s symptoms or pain can speak with their vet to see if any medication can be prescribed, Ventejol said. He recommends owners inquire about antitussives, glucocorticoid anti-inflammatories, and/or bronchodilators.
"They have an effect on the consequences of the infection but do not eliminate the virus," Ventejol continued. "Of course, the infected dog should be isolated from other dogs or cats to prevent the spread of the infection."
Not all dogs show visible symptoms when infected with canine influenza, however.
Ken Sieranski, the medical director at the Hearts Alive Village animal shelter in Las Vegas said that some infected dogs appear to be asymptomatic while others may show mild or more severe symptoms like high fever or pneumonia.
"It's important to have your dog evaluated by a veterinarian if they are exhibiting any symptoms," Sieranski said. "The very best way to protect your dog is with a canine influenza vaccine. Vaccination requires two injections given two to four weeks apart, followed by a yearly booster. If a vaccinated dog becomes infected, the vaccine can substantially reduce the severity of the viral infection."