When numerous dogs in Chicago needed to be treated and even hospitalized for fever and respiratory signs ranging from coughing and sneezing to pneumonia, veterinarians felt sure of the cause: the H3N8 strain which had been causing sporadic outbreaks in dogs since 2004.
The Cornell University researchers studied patient samples and astounded the veterinary community with the news that it is the H3N2 virus, common in China and South Korea, causing the current outbreak.
Differences in canine influenza
Sounds arcane- why should we care?
Well this new (to us in North America) strain, H3N2 is significantly different from the old H3N8 strain. That means the PCR test we commonly use to diagnose canine influenza is tailored to detect the old H3N8 virus; dogs infected with H3N2 will test negative.
Since it is so different, it is likely that the available canine influenza vaccine will not provide immunity to our dogs. Veterinarians in Chicago are trying to determine if vaccinated dogs are contracting this flu at a lower rate than unvaccinated dogs.
Dogs living in areas where there is an outbreak should avoid exposure by avoiding dog parks and day care facilities. I have not heard of feline cases in Chicago, but cats can be infected by H3N2.
Chinese Medicine can help cure canine influenza
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) developed long before influenza viruses were analyzed by PCR but will have a lot to offer dogs in this outbreak.
Flu patients can benefit from acupuncture which can boost immunity and alleviate respiratory signs.
TCM can help prophylactically too!
If you live in an area where your dog may be at risk, here are some acupressure points you can stimulate to boost your dog’s immunity. Canine influenza has high morbidity but low mortality. That means many of the dogs exposed to the virus will contract the flu, but most of those dogs will not become so severely ill that they die. Good immunity can mean the difference between mild and serious disease!
Gall Bladder 20, Feng-chi, is an important point in preventing infections and treating respiratory signs. Find the junction on the back of your dog’s head between her skull and her neck. On either side you will find a large depression. Extend your index finger and with your fingertip gently apply steady pressure to those depressions for 20 seconds.
Large Intestine 11, Qu-chi, increases the number and quality of several immune cells. To locate it, bend your dog’s front leg. You will find a crease at the elbow. Large Intestine 20 is at the end of that crease. Apply steady pressure to that point for 20 seconds.
Lung 7, Lie-que, is a good cough suppressing and improves respiration generally. To find it, bend your dog’s wrist on the side close to his body. Just above the wrist you will find a bump called the styloid process. Above that you will find a depression- Lung 7. Apply steady pressure and move your fingertip up and down in that depression for 20 seconds.
Many Chinese herbs positively affect immunity. Astragalus is a root which in TCM boosts Wei Qi- Wei Qi is the energy that protects the body from outside pathogens. Astragalus increases white blood cell counts, and promotes faster production and maturation of immune cells in bone marrow. It also inhibits activity of many bacteria. A veterinarian trained in Chinese herbal medicine can help you find the best formula for your pet.