Canine Influenza 2017
July 19, 2017
You have probably heard by now that there is an outbreak of canine influenza in the United States. There have been some confirmed cases in Minnesota, although we have not seen any cases at our clinic.
I will list more information below, but the take-home message is that the risk to average pet dogs from canine influenza, including the current outbreak, is low. We do not routinely recommend vaccinating for influenza, and in particular vaccinating in response to an outbreak is unlikely to give full immunity before the outbreak has ended. Having said that, we are not opposed to vaccination and can get the vaccine; it is given as 2 boosters, 2-3 weeks apart and then annually. For dogs at higher risk, vaccinating yearly would be a better approach than in response to an outbreak. The best way to prevent canine influenza from spreading is for sick dogs and well dogs to be kept separated from one another. If your dog is exposed to a coughing dog, signs of influenza should be seen within 1-3 days and are usually mild.
The nitty gritty details:
1. There are two strains of canine influenza. The current outbreak involves the H3N2 strain, which originated in Asia. This outbreak was likely introduced to the US from dogs imported for rescue.
2. The dogs most at risk are dogs who travel with the owners to things like dog shows or sporting (agility, obedience, disc, etc) trials and any dogs who live with or come in contact with them. The risk to the average pet dog is low, although boarding, daycare, dog parks, or classes are place where dogs could be exposed.
3. If dogs are going to get sick, they will usually show signs within 1-3 days of exposure. Cough, fever, general malaise, or not eating can all be symptoms.
4. This is usually a relatively mild disease that looks much like kennel cough, but some dogs can develop a secondary pneumonia and become very sick very rapidly.
5. The virus persists about 24-48 hours in the environment and is easily killed by common disinfectants.
6. Quarantine of affected dogs is the most effective way to stop this disease spreading. Coughing dogs and well dogs should not intermingle. In most cases, cancelling classes, daycare, etc. isn’t necessary unless cases have been confirmed at that facility, but definitely would be preventative.
7. There are three vaccines available for canine flu: One for each strain, plus one bivalent (containing both strains) vaccine. The vaccines are all give as 2 boosters, 2-4 weeks apart, and a dog has full immunity 2-4 weeks after the second booster. In most cases, if we vaccinate in response to an outbreak, it will be over before a dog is fully protected. Like bordatella, a vaccinated dog can still get influenza but will typically have a much shorter and milder disease course.
8. We currently consider canine influenza a lifestyle rather than a core vaccine, with similar risk factors to bordatella except that traveling and mingling with dogs from other parts of the country (or with dogs who travel) is the riskiest. We do not keep it on hand but can order it.
Please let us know if you have any additional questions about canine influenza or the vaccine.
Karen Christopherson, DVM