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You’ve Gotten the Flu Vaccine – Has your Dog?

Published on January 26, 2016

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Canine Influenza Virus

As all of us know, getting the flu is not fun.  At the best it means several days of misery, at the worst we can end up in the hospital.  Dogs also get the flu and it can be as serious a health issue for them as it is for us.

Symptoms and risks of Canine Influenza

As in people, dogs experience coughing, sneezing, runny eyes, and sometimes develop pneumonia.  Serious cases will require hospitalization and in rare cases, dogs may die. Dog flu is highly contagious, quickly contaminating surfaces, food, bowls and other objects with viral fomites. Dogs fond of socializing with other dogs at the dog park or doggy day care, those who frequent boarding kennels and grooming facilities, or even those who just rub noses with other neighborhood dogs in passing are at risk.

Different strains of Canine Flu Virus

Just as there are different strains of human flu virus, there are also different strains of canine virus. The first canine influenza virus (CIV) – H3N8– was identified in 2006 and began to spread across the US.  In April 2015, a new strain of CIV emerged – H3N2.  Unfortunately, this new flu is more virulent than the previous strain — ill animals shed about 10x greater numbers of viral particles than with the original CIV.  This helps explain why in 8 years the original strain has spread to only 36 states; the new H3N2 spread to 24 states after only 8 months.

Vaccines are available

Shortly after the first canine flu virus emerged, a vaccine was developed. Many dogs in our area have been vaccinated, which helped to control the original epidemic.  Now, after the new H3N2 flu began causing disease in the Midwest, Southeast, and Northeast, a vaccine specific for this new strain was developed. Today vaccines are commercially available for both CIV H3N8 and H3N2.

Pender is recommending that all social dogs be vaccinated with the new Bivalent Influenza vaccine covering both H3N8 and H3N2 strains. Dogs previously vaccinated for H3N8 will not be boostered for the older CIV, but will instead begin the new vaccine series. As with the original vaccine, the Bivalent Influenza (H3N8 and H3N2) vaccination protocol requires receiving one initial vaccination, followed by a second vaccination in 3 weeks. Immunity is then maintained with an annual booster.

Dogs today go where their people go

Dogs in today’s society are highly mobile. They travel all around the US and sometimes the world. This means that it is easy for a dog in Virginia today to have been 1000 miles away for Thanksgiving, contacting other dogs at both locations. For this reason, all social dogs – those who interact with other dogs in any setting – should receive CIV vaccination. Talk to your Pender veterinarian today about the risk of Canine Influenza in your area and his or her recommendations for vaccination.

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