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Canine Flu is on the march

submitted by VCA Neshaminy Animal Hospital

Due to the rapid spread of two different strains of the highly contagious canine influenza virus throughout the United States, it is recommended that any dog that comes in contact with other dogs be vaccinated against both strains of this virus. Dogs that go to dog shows, boarding and day care facilities, groomers, dog parks, etc. should all be vaccinated. 

Since April 2017 there have been outbreaks of canine influenza virus in Northern and Southern California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.

These cases have all been due to the canine influenza (CIV) strain H3N2.

This is the same strain responsible for the severe outbreak of canine influenza in Chicago and Atlanta in 2015. In several of the states, H3N2 had not been identified previously. All prior cases of CIV were due to H3N8. CIV has continued to spread around the United States in recent years and this should be a concern to all dog owners.

Symptoms of canine influenza often mimic other common upper respiratory infections. The most common symptom is a cough that persists for 10-21 days despite treatment. Dogs may have a soft, moist cough or a dry hacking cough similar to “kennel cough.” Discharge from the eyes or nose, sneezing, lethargy, or decrease in appetite may also be seen. Many dogs develop a secondary bacterial infection causing high fever and nasal discharge, or even pneumonia.

In November 2016, the first bivalent vaccine that offers protection against both H3N2 and H3N8 became available. Initial vaccination involves a series of two vaccines given two to four weeks apart, and then annually thereafter. The vaccine provides protection against both strains of CIV currently recognized in the US (H3N8 and H3N2).

Just as in human medicine, the vaccine may not completely prevent infection, but it will significantly decrease clinical signs, severity of disease, and spread of CIV infection.