Due to the recent outbreak of Canine Influenza throughout the Midwest, Westgate Pet Clinic is now recommending that all dogs that go to dog parks, kennels, and dog shows be immunized against Canine Influenza.
It is important to know that there are now two strains of the canine influenza virus documented in the United States. For the past decade, the only known canine influenza virus type was strain H3N8. The Chicago influenza outbreak was determined to be a new variant of the virus, type H3N2. H3N2 is thought to have been brought to the United States from Asia. H3N2 influenza outbreaks have been seen cropping up throughout the Midwest, including most recently in St. Paul, MN. There is currently no vaccine available for strain H3N2. We only have a vaccine available for strain H3N8. We are hopeful that the H3N8 flu vaccine will offer some immunity to the H3N2 virus.
Here are some important facts about Canine flu:
- According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the flu virus is highly contagious. "Almost all dogs exposed to CIV will become infected, and the majority (80%) of infected dogs develop flu-like illness. The mortality (death) rate is low (less than 10%)." Dogs that are very young, very old, and immune compromised dogs are at higher risk of complications from flu.
- Symptoms of canine influenza include: lethargy, cough, fever and nasal discharge.
- Flu is transmitted through respiratory secretions. Dogs are most contagious to other dogs during the first 48 hours, before they start showing symptoms of the disease themselves.
- The incubation period for the Canine flu is 2-5 days.
- The flu virus can live in the environment for up to 24 hours. The Canine flu is not contagious to people, however the H3N2 virus may be contagious to cats.
- As of this writing, there have been no documented cases of Canine flu in the Metro area.
- The vaccine is available at Westgate Pet Clinic. Initially two vaccines are given 2-4 weeks apart, then annually if indicated. Your dog does not have full immunity until 2-3 weeks after the booster vaccine has been given.
- Because the canine influenza vaccine available targets H3N8, and the more recent Midwest strain of flu is H3N2, the vaccine may not be fully effective, but ideally will provide some cross immunity. H3N8 is also still present in the Midwest.
- Like any vaccine, the flu vaccine can cause symptoms of lethargy or malaise. In addition, there are some pets that can develop the flu, even if they are vaccinated.
- The flu vaccine should not be given if your dog is currently ill, or less then 8 weeks of age. Also, if your dog has been vaccinated with any other vaccine, you must wait 2 weeks before giving the flu vaccine.
- The "Kennel Cough" vaccine does not vaccinate against Canine Influenza. (This vaccine targets the bacteria bordetella bronchiseptica.) The parainfluenza vaccination included in the distemper combination vaccine is for a different disease and does not vaccinate against Canine Influenza.