Three confirmed cases of dog flu in Wilton

Wilton joins Stamford and Greenwich on the list of Fairfield County municipalities with confirmed cases of H3N2, a newer virulent strain of canine influenza or “dog flu” that appeared in New York City earlier this year before making its way into Connecticut.

In an Aug. 8 email, Dr. Jennifer Rosen told The Bulletin that South Wilton Veterinary Group at 51 Danbury Road has had “three confirmed cases” of H3N2. All three cases were in July, the first of which was on July 11, according to the veterinary group’s other medical director, Dr. Clare Fahy.

In the United States, there are two strains that cause dog flu: H3N8 and H3N2. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, H3N8 was first reported in the U.S. in 2004, and H3N2 first appeared in the U.S. in 2015. The H3N2 virus appeared in Brooklyn, N.Y., back in April and spread across New York City’s boroughs before making its way to Connecticut.

Rosen said “the best way to prevent dogs from becoming severely ill” is to vaccinate them against both strains.

Dog owners should also “wash their hands and any shared toys after playing or contact with other dogs,” said Rosen, and “avoid bringing their dogs to areas where other dogs congregate,” such as grooming facilities, dog parks and doggy day cares.

Dr. Ralph Hunt of the Wilton Hospital for Animals at 215 Danbury Road told The Bulletin on Aug. 9 that his practice hasn’t had any cases of H3N2, but said “there’s more precaution with this particular strain.”

Hunt said the Office of the State Veterinarian is “trying to be proactive” when it comes to the virus and is requiring veterinarians to report confirmed cases of canine influenza in the state. The Bulletin reached out to the state veterinarian, but did not hear back in time for publication.

There have been no confirmed cases of H3N2 at the Cannondale Animal Clinic at 481 Danbury Road, but the clinic did have three dogs come in with coughs “shortly after the outbreak” in Stamford, according to Dr. Paula Belknap.

Two of the dogs were tested and came back negative for H3N2, but positive for bordetella and mycoplasma, said Belknap, “which contributed to their flu-like symptoms.”

“Both dogs had been previously vaccinated for H3N2 virus,” she said, “and I believe that is why the tested negative for H3N2.”

Belknap said the owner of the third dog declined testing.

Symptoms and recovery

According to the Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine, “virtually all dogs are susceptible” to dog flu, and the onset of symptoms come two to three days after infection.

Symptoms include high fever, coughing, loss of appetite, lethargy, runny nose and eye discharge. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), not all dogs show signs of illness and “the severity of illness associated with canine flu in dogs can range from no signs to severe illness.”

Dogs with flu symptoms should be taken to the vet promptly for assessment and treatment. If diagnosed with canine flu, dogs should be kept away from other dogs for at least three weeks to prevent spreading the disease.

There are no drugs to treat canine influenza, which means the illness must run its course once a dog is infected.

While most dogs recover within two to three weeks, according to the CDC, “some may develop secondary bacterial infections, which may lead to more severe illness and pneumonia.”