By: Tara Sansing
As you have most likely already seen via the news there have been recent outbreaks of the flu in dogs across the country. At least two positive cases have been confirmed in the Houston area in the last couple of weeks.
Please be aware that this is the second strain of influenza that has been known to affect dogs. In the past, we have seen outbreaks of the Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) otherwise known as the H3N8 strain. The current flu virus, H3N2, emerged in Asia in 2005 and spread to the United States in 2015. Since then, there have been scattered positive cases in dogs across the country and more recently large outbreaks in several states.
Just like the H3N8 flu virus, H3N2 is an upper respiratory virus. The most common symptoms are coughing, fever, nasal discharge, lethargy and lack of appetite. Dogs are contagious for 5-7 days prior to showing the first symptoms and it is for this reason that H3N2 has spread very quickly. Because the virus is relatively new, dogs have no natural immunity against the virus—if unvaccinated and exposed, the chances of being infected is close to 100%.
The significance of an influenza infection is that it compromises the normal defense mechanisms of the canine respiratory tract so that secondary bacterial infections, including pneumonia, are common. The mortality rate for the virus and resulting infections is 8%. The dogs most at risk of dying are very old, young or are immune compromised because of another condition. Breeds such as Bulldogs, Boston terriers, German shepherds, etc. are more susceptible to secondary lung infection.
Who should be vaccinated?
Any dogs that walk in the neighborhood, visit with neighbor dogs through the fence, get bathed/groomed, board, go to training classes or play at the dog park are at high risk. It is important to understand, however, that a dog does not have to come in direct contact with a dog that has the virus. The virus can live in the environment for several days and so any dogs that are in the same area later are also at risk. The H3N2 virus can also be brought home by any person that has come into contact with the virus.
Please note that much like the flu vaccine in humans, the vaccine does not guarantee that a dog will not contract the virus but the symptoms will be much less severe and the dog should recover more quickly. Any dog that has not received the vaccine in the past will need an initial vaccine followed by a booster in 2-4 weeks. The H3N2 vaccine should continue to be administered annually along with the H3N8 vaccine.
Starting July 1st, all dogs that drop off for baths and boarding at our clinic will need be vaccinated for both strains of influenza. This is for the safety of all patients in our care.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule a time for your pup(s) to come in for the vaccine, please contact the clinic at 281-282-9944.