Canine influenza is a newly-emerging infectious disease caused by a “flu” virus. In dogs a highly contagious strain of the Influenza-A virus known as H3N8 is capable of causing respiratory illness. Canine influenza virus only affects dogs. Just like human “flu” canine influenza is highly contagious. In fact, unless a dog has already had the illness and recovered, virtually every dog exposed to the virus will become infected, because this is a new virus and dogs have no natural immunity to it.
The most common sign of canine influenza is a persistent cough. About 80% of dogs who contract influenza will have milder clinical signs which include a low-grade fever, nasal discharge, lack of energy, loss of appetite and a cough that can last up to a month. In 20% of the cases more severe clinical signs occur such as high fever and pneumonia, and a small number of dogs have died from complications associated with the disease.
Is my dog at risk for infection?
Most dogs regardless of breed or age are at risk for canine influenza; however, certain activities and life styles can raise your dog’s risk of becoming infected.
• Dogs that board or go to “doggie day care”
• Dogs that come from a shelter, rescue center or pet store
• Dogs attending group training such as puppy kindergarten or obedience school
• Dogs that visit a groomer
• Dogs that exercise at dog parks
• Dogs that participate in dog events such as dog show, obedience trials or dog walks.
• Dogs that come in contact with other dogs in waiting rooms during visits to their veterinarian or dogs that are dropped off at veterinary hospitals for treatment or surgery
To get started, your dog will need an initial influenza vaccination followed by a booster vaccination in 2-4 weeks. After that an annual booster will be needed to maintain immunity. Please call us to arrange for this vaccination so that your dog will be protected before he or she goes to a boarding kennel, groomer, or another venue where contact with the virus is likely. Studies have shown that dogs have not experienced significant adverse reactions to this vaccination, so vaccinating your dog should be safe. As with all vaccinations, there is no guarantee that the vaccinated pet will be 100% protected; however, vaccinating will significantly reduce the risk of infection, and reduce both the severity of infection and the duration of infection.