The 'highly contagious' dog flu is popping up in Minnesota again

What canine influenza is, and what state animal officials are doing about it.
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What canine influenza is, and what state animal officials are doing about it.

The highly contagious canine flu virus is once again popping up in Minnesota, so state officials are going to once again keep a close eye on how it spreads.

A total of 23 positive cases of H3N2 dog flu in Minnesota have been reported to Cornell University's tracking page in the past 45 days.

That's by far the most in any Midwestern state (though Florida's had 100 positive tests). The Minnesota cases are in the southern or central parts of the state:

 Credit: Cornell University

Credit: Cornell University

From March of 2015 through to 45 days ago, the state had seen just 26.

Because of all that recent activity, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health is re-classifying canine influenza, and asking veterinarians to help keep tabs on it.

Suddenly more cases

You might remember, dog flu popped up a couple years ago.

In April of 2015, states around Minnesota started seeing a spike in canine influenza, with more than 1,000 sickened in a short period of time. A case was found in Minnesota that June, in a dog adopted from a St. Paul shelter.

By June of 2016, reports of the virus had dwindled enough that the Minnesota Board of Animal Health felt it didn't need to proactively track canine flu, since it was no longer "as large of an issue," spokesperson Michael Crusan told GoMN.

State Veterinarian Dr. Beth Thompson in a statement said it "appeared the disease was diminishing" at the time.

That was the case until recently here, when veterinarians at private practices began telling the board they were seeing cases pop up again.

So the board made the decision to add canine influenza back to its list of reportable disease. Meaning a vet or health professional who confirms a dog has it (or has reasonable suspicion), they have to report it immediately to the board.

"With all diseases it's not a finite thing, that the disease is there one day, it's gone the next day type of thing," Crusan said. "This could be something that could linger for awhile, and we might need to start keeping more data on it now so we can understand better in the future where this is going."

What you should do if you think your dog has influenza

Dog flu is really contagious – it can spread through coughing, sneezing or direct contact between canines, the Board of Animal Health says.

Infected dogs usually end up with a mild cough, fever, lethargy, or increased sneezing/nasal discharge. Most dogs have a mild form and recover just fine, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation says, but things can become more serious, and dogs have died from the virus.

If a dog exhibits respiratory symptoms, bring him/her to your regular vet, Crusan said. They'll know your pet best, and can suss out whether it's canine influenza or something else.

There is a vaccine available, but you should talk it over with your vet to make sure that's the right move.

The Animal Control Board also mentions this: It's rare, but cats can contract the dog flu. So keep felines away from infected pups.

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