Is Canine Influenza Important ?

J. A. Hass DVM, MS, DABVP (canine/feline)

Veterinary Care Specialists and VCS Pets First


Over the years I have been impressed with the increasing mobility of my clients dogs. Not just within our community, but traveling with their owners to different cities, states and even countries on a regular basis. Spring and summer increase our dogs mobility, traveling far and wide with us to visit family and friends. Also, with the frequent use of dog parks, doggy day care, regular grooming and large boarding facilities our dogs come in contact with many other dogs that also have a varied travel history. 

The recent outbreak of canine influenza over this summer helps underscore the importance of our pet’s travel, their exposure to dogs that may have traveled to areas where the infection is present and the risk of emerging life threatening diseases.

Canine Influenza is a contagious virus. This disease, just like the flu in people, tends to more severely affect the young, the very old or dogs that are already ill. Canine influenza causes cough and respiratory signs, lethargy, fever, decreased appetite and vomiting. It typically is self limiting with the dogs recovering over 2-3 weeks time. Many other illnesses may share these symptoms. Should your dog become ill and you are concerned about possible influenza infection, you should visit your veterinarian. There is a test that can be performed that will identify a canine influenza infection. However, remember that other diagnostics and additional therapies may be necessary to treat your dogs illness and to be sure that the correct diagnosis is achieved.

Fortunately, there is a vaccine for the virus. The strain of the flu virus that we vaccinate for is called H3N8. H3N8 has been present in the United States since 2004, and it was utilized in creating the current influenza vaccine. The strain of the current influenza outbreak is H3N2. The origin of this outbreak is uncertain. Despite its limitations, vaccination with the canine influenza vaccine does provide some protection against H3N2 and is recommended for dogs at risk of infection. It consists of two vaccines, administered two weeks apart and protection should be achieved 2 weeks after the second vaccine. 

Finally, for the answer to the question, ‘Is Canine influenza important to me and my dog?’ The short answer is, yes. It’s a highly infectious disease that at best could make your dog ill and on rare occasion could lead to their demise. The long answer is cases have been reported in Southeastern Michigan and if your pet is exposed to other dogs often such as daycare, boarding, goes to a grooming parlor or is a dog park enthusiast they are the individuals at higher risk of exposure and could benefit from vaccination. You should discuss the option of vaccination with your veterinarian.

The recent canine influenza outbreak has also served as a reminder that our dogs are not completely safe from infectious diseases. Continued protection from disease through the prudent use of immunizations, limiting flea and tick exposure, heartworm prevention, and feeding high quality diets are all necessary for our dogs to remain safe and healthy. 





















Posted on September 11, 2015
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