With the recent outbreak of Canine Influenza in the mid-west, here is some information on what you should be aware of.
Cornell University issued a press release on April 12, 2015 that states that the ongoing canine influenza in the Chicago area is due to the H3N2 subtype of canine influenza, not the H3N8 subtype that has been seen in the U.S. previously. This is the first identification of the H3N2 subtype outside of Asia. At this time, it is not known if the currently available H3N8 vaccines will provide any cross-immunity to dogs exposed to the H3N2 subtype.
Please click on the link below for Frequently Asked Questions about Canine Influenza.
Frequently Asked Questions
What every dog owner should know about Canine Influenza (H3N8)
Dr. Jennifer Johnson
Stoney Creek Veterinary Hospital
Obviously, “FLU” has been a word on everyone’s lips this year. In my opinion, there has been so much publicity about the Human seasonal flu, the Human “Swine Flu” (H1N1) and the Canine Flu (H3N8) that it has started to cause some panic among pet owners.
This article was designed to help answer your questions about the Canine Influenza Virus.
Canine Influenza was isolated in 2004, after a group of racing Greyhound dogs became very ill on the Florida tracks that year, and some of them died. After much investigation, it was found that this particular flu virus strain had “jumped” species from horses to dogs. This likely occurred in the late 1990’s, as testing has isolated the virus from blood samples from as early as 1995.
We do not know if this Canine Influenza (H3N8) is particularly deadly, however the concern over the past years since 2004 are that it may prove to be a problem as it spreads out among the dogs in all of the states. The reason that it may be a problem is because it is a “new” flu for dogs, and therefore no dogs have had any immunity to this virus. This is the same fear that the experts have about the Swine Flu in people – because you have never been exposed to it, your body may have some major trouble fighting it off.
Canine Influenza is easily passed from dog to dog through respiratory secretions. You are all familiar with how contagious “Kennel Cough/Canine Cough Complex” can be, and Canine Flu is the same. The symptoms are like Canine Cough, and generally Flu in dogs will cause mild respiratory symptoms. It is estimated that of all dogs that may be infected with Flu, 10-20% will show no symptoms at all and 60-80% will exhibit minor respiratory symptoms. This leaves a small percentage, 10-20%, who may develop complications of more severe Flu disease.
Diagnosis of Flu in dogs can be done in two ways. In the first few days of symptoms, dogs may have nasal discharge, which can be tested for the virus. After the initial acute phase, the only test is a paired blood test, where titers are done on the blood and repeated in 2 weeks. Most veterinarians that have seen canine influenza in their patients note that the flu appears to be like a bad case of Canine Cough, and often includes a fever, while Canine Cough usually does not. Treatment for Canine Flu consists of supportive care, high protein feeding and good hydration to support the dog while fighting the virus. Complications arise in otherwise sick patients who cannot fight off the virus, get dehydrated and/or get secondary bacterial infections. The bad news is that, just like human flu, some dogs who get the virus may die.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) website has a great information page on Canine Flu. Even though this Flu cannot infect people, the CDC still follows all Influenzas to be sure that there are no mutations, or “jumps.” Check out the website at www.cdc.gov/flu/canine/
So, what do you do if you think your dog has the flu? First, come see the doctors at the hospital, so we can properly treat your dog. Do not wait if you dog is coughing, seems lethargic and does not want to eat or drink. Keep your dog well-rested, and if your dog is sick or coughing, do not allow them to be out and about among other dogs. If you had the flu, your doctor would tell you to stay in bed to heal – you should treat your dog the same way, with “tender loving care!”
Now, the big question – What about the new vaccine?
There is a Flu vaccine for dogs. It has been on the market since June of 2009. It looks to be a safe vaccine. The vaccine for this flu (as well as any vaccine for flu) is not going to prevent the disease or eliminate infection. The vaccine is designed to reduce the severity of clinical signs, shorten the course of the disease, and reduce the shedding of the virus from the infected dog. The vaccine requires two doses, given 2-4 weeks apart. It is labeled for 1 year duration, so you should have a booster yearly for continued protection. Our hospital nurses can administer the vaccine without a doctor’s appointment.
If you have your dog vaccinated, protection will be best 2 weeks after the 2nd booster. This means that your dog should start the series at least 1 month before you want your dog to be boarded, or go to day care, etc.
Should your pet be vaccinated? This year, 2009, Stoney Creek Veterinary Hospital recommends that if you believe that your pet is at higher risk for exposure to Flu, you should vaccinate. High risk patients are dogs that travel to dog race tracks, dogs that regularly go to day care or boarding or grooming facilities, or dogs that regularly attend dog shows/trials/events. Dogs that are in contact with a lot of different dogs are at highest risk. The doctors at Stoney Creek will monitor all of our patients for Canine Flu. As of October, 2009, we have never seen a case of Canine Influenza in any of our Stoney Creek patients. After this year, we may change our recommendation for vaccination if we start to see a lot of Flu cases. If your dogs travel to a destination where they caution you that they have “seen a lot of Flu”, please let our doctors know. We would like to keep track of this emerging disease, and base our clinic recommendations on the prevalence in our area. Just like other diseases, this may change in 2010, and we may recommend the Flu vaccine just like we recommend the Canine Cough/Bordetella vaccine.