East Tennessee animal health experts discuss H3N8 dog flu

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) – A new strain of the flu virus is starting to pop up across the United States.

Unlike influenza and the H1N1 Swine flu, it is not contagious to humans, but it could affect man’s best friend.

According to animal health experts, the H3N8 dog flu originated in horses. In January 2004 it was first observed in Greyhounds at several Florida race tracks.

"A lot of people think of the swine influenza from pigs getting into people,” said Dr. Kristi Lively, a veterinarian based in Knoxville. “Well this is kind of similar. It went from horses to dogs."

Since then the virus has popped up in 30 states and claimed the life of a dog in Virginia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe 80 percent of canines will eventually get the virus with about 20 percent never showing any symptoms.

"In some rare cases it may develop primary or secondary pneumonia,” said Melissa Kennedy, a clinical virologist at the University of Tennessee Veterinary School. “It can be lethal, but again, that's the exception not the rule."

Symptoms of the H3N8 virus strain are similar to the kennel cough and include a runny nose, fever and cough.

"If a dog is noticeably ill, quits eating and you think it’s depressed then you should take it to the vet," said Kennedy.

The virus is transmitted by direct contact with other dogs. High risk places are boarding facilities, day cares, groomers, dog shows and possibly dog parks.

There is a vaccine made by Intervet and the company monitors the virus closely.

“If it does start mutating, they will change their vaccine to keep up with any changes in the virus," said Dr. Lively.

Right now, there is no evidence of infection among humans.

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