Canine Influenza: What you need to know
You may or may not have heard much about the dog flu, but I bet you are very familiar with ‘the flu’ which infects many people every year. Influenza viruses are scary because they have the ability to change easily which is why there is a new influenza vaccine for people almost every year. The Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) made headlines years ago in 2004, again in 2015 during an outbreak in Chicago, and it is making headlines currently as it appears to be traveling up the East Coast.
CIV is an influenza A virus and it comes in two forms: H3N8 and H3N2. The H3N8 strain was first identified as a part of canine respiratory disease in 2004 and is thought to come from the Equine Influenza H3N8 virus. The more recent outbreaks, Chicago in 2015 and the southeast in May 2017, are a new strain of canine influenza: H3N2. The H3N2 influenza virus came from South Korea and is thought to have morphed from avian influenza to infect dogs. This is the strain associated with the most recent outbreak in the Southern United States.
So, what do you need to know?
1. It is highly contagious.
Just like influenza in humans, the CIV is extremely contagious. Many dogs will carry the virus, shedding it in the environment (and thus, exposing other dogs), without showing any symptoms of being sick.
2. All dogs are at risk.
Dogs that travel, frequent daycare or a boarding facility, or are regularly groomed are at highest risk. However, because dogs do not show signs of being sick until they have already contracted the virus, any dog that comes in contact with other dogs is at risk. And I am not talking about close contact. You can take your dog for a walk, see only one other dog, and if that dog is carrying the virus and is panting or coughing or sneezing…there is a chance your dog has been exposed.
3. There is no cure, but there is a vaccine!
Treatment for canine influenza depends on how severe the illness. Pneumonia caused by CIV requires hospitalization and most of the time these animals must be isolated to avoid exposure to other patients. This becomes costly in time and money. The influenza vaccine is one injection providing immunization against both H3N8 and H3N2.
I understand vaccinations are a topic of controversy in both human and animal health. Ask your veterinarian if Canine Influenza has been reported in your area, and if vaccinating against CIV is right for your dog.