Hi Dr. Janeway,
We take our dog Scooter traveling with us to the coast in our RV. I heard about the recent outbreak of dog flu, and I am worried that Scooter will get sick. Is this something I should be concerned about? Is my dog already vaccinated for the dog flu since he gets the kennel cough vaccine?
Worried dog mom
Due to the recent outbreak of dog flu in the bay area, I think your concerns for Scooter’s
health are valid. Scooters chances of contracting flu depend mostly on his exposure to
other dogs or public places. Unfortunately, Scooter is not vaccinated for Canine Flu if he
has only received the kennel cough (Bordatella Bronchiseptica) vaccine. If you will be
taking Scooter to public areas, the dog beach or dog parks I would recommend
considering the Canine Influenza vaccine.
Canine influenza spreads rapidly through direct contact (dogs playing together or
sniffing) or contaminated surfaces (water bowls, walkways etc. . . ). Unfortunately, when
dogs are most contagious they are usually not showing any signs of illness. The
incubation period of Canine Influenza (the time it takes from contracting the disease to
showing clinical signs of illness) is between 1-5 days.
Unfortunately, when dogs are most contagious they are usually not showing any signs of illness.
There are two different strains of influenza currently known to cause illness in dogs, they
are H3N2 and H3N8. Influenza is named for the proteins in the lipid outer layer of the
influenza capsid – hemagglutinin (HA), and neuraminidase (NA). Interestingly, both
strains of influenza that affect dogs mutated from a strain that infects other species.
The H3N8 influenza was first identified in racing greyhounds in 2005 and was suspected
to have mutated from the equine H3N8. The H3N2 strain is responsible for the recent
outbreaks in the bay area. H3N2 has been found to be derived from the Avian Influenza
virus which likely jumped from birds to dogs in Asian bird and dog markets. At this
time, the H3N2 influenza only has been documented to cause illness in dogs and cats.
There is no evidence to suggest Canine Influenza is transmissible to humans (phew!).
Interestingly, both strains of influenza that affect dogs mutated from a strain that infects other species.
While almost all dogs exposed to the virus will become infected, only 80% will show
clinical signs. The other 20% will become asymptomatic carriers and spread the virus.
Clinical signs of canine influenza are very similar to kennel cough, although severe
illness is more common with the flu. Clinical signs of Canine Influenza include:
- Nasal discharge
- Secondary infections or pneumonia
Diagnosis requires a visit to the vet and specific testing. Although most dogs develop the mild form of illness, fatal illness can occur if secondary infections or pneumonia occur. Treatment for flu is primarily supportive care, hydration, antibiotics if secondary infection, and cough suppressants. Dogs confirmed to be infected with Canine flu should be isolated from other dogs for 4 weeks!
The current recommendations are to vaccinate your dog for canine influenza if you will be traveling to areas where there have been known cases or outbreaks. Consider vaccination if you take your dog to boarding kennels, dog shows, or the dog park. Basically, if your dog is at risk of kennel cough, he is also at risk of contracting the Canine Flu. The Canine Influenza vaccine requires two vaccines 3 weeks apart, with your pet considered protected against flu 2 weeks after the second vaccine. Also, if you opt for vaccination sure your pet is receiving the bivalent vaccine (covers both H3N8 and H3N2 strains of flu).
Basically, if your dog is at risk of kennel cough, he is also at risk of contracting the Canine Flu.
Worried, I hope this information has helped to clear up your questions. Call me if you have any other questions or concerns, or to make an appointment for Scooter to get his Canine Influenza vaccine. Brighton Greens Veterinary Hospital has a limited supply of the bivalent Canine Influenza vaccine, so consider scheduling your appointment ASAP.
Dr. Robin Janeway is an owner of Brighton Greens Veterinary Hospital. Your question can be the topic of next month’s article!
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