A group of cats in a shelter in Northwest Indiana have tested positive for the canine influenza H3N2 virus. This was confirmed by Sandra Newbury the clinical assistant professor and also the director of the Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine in collaboration with Kathy Toohey-Kurth, virology section head at the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.
Although cases have been reported in South Korea, only a single case showed up in the United States in 2015. The cats that are infected shared a shelter with dogs that were also infected.
Tests have shown that the virus can reproduce in cats and spread from cat to cat, as well as from dog to cat. This means that dogs and cats must be housed separate from each other in shelters.
Cats exhibit upper respiratory symptoms such as runny nose, congestion and general malaise, as well as lip smacking and excessive salivation. Fortunately, the symptoms do not last long and so far, have not caused death in cats.
Dogs that have the virus often develop a persistent cough, runny nose and fever, although some dogs show no symptoms and some can get very sick. Canine flu has caused death in dogs but most recover if taken to a veterinarian and given the proper care.
Although there is a flu shot for dogs, there is no shot for cats. So far the canine virus has not infected a large number of cats. However, if a potential cat owner goes to a shelter and adopts a cat or visits a shelter and already owns a cat, they should be cautious when handling cats by using hand sanitizer before and after handling each individual cat or dog.
If your dog or cat shows flu symptoms, a trip to the veterinarian is in order. However, be sure to tell the receptionist when making an appointment that you suspect that your dog or cat has the canine influenza virus so that they make take proper precautions.
Proper treatment, care and handling of pets who may have the canine influenza virus, will go a long way to preventing it from spreading. Be sure not to make contact with other pets until your veterinarian says the virus is no longer contagious.