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Canine Influenza in the news – should we be worried?

Since the beginning of 2023, there has been a steady rise in reports of respiratory infections in dogs in the US, that has since been identified as being at least partly cause by Canine Influenza. Canine Influenza is a relatively new virus in our dog population, but has 2 predominant strains that have been seen in outbreaks since 2003. While we have been lucky to have escaped any major outbreaks in our area thus far, but since it is currently in the East coast region, we know a lot of our clients have been expressing concern about it, so wanted to share some information and resources.

Here is some basic information about the canine influenza virus:

* There are two different types of canine influenza (H3N8 and H3N2). Both types are highly contagious and can spread easily from dog to dog. The H3N2 strain can even be transmitted to and from cats. (but luckily, cannot spread to or from people!)

* Symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite

  • Moist or dry cough

  • Clear or thick runny nose

  • Mild, low grade fever (103 degrees F)

  • Lack of energy (lethargy).

* Severe cases of dog flu can lead to pneumonia and can also lead to secondary bacterial infections or even death.

* Watch for these symptoms:

  • High fever (greater than 104 degrees F)

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Loss of energy (lethargy) and signs of depression

  • Severe appetite loss

* Symptoms can last for 7-10 days or longer – this is a VIRUS – so there is no cure, only supportive care while the virus runs its course (just like the flu in humans!)

* The time between when your dog is infected to when they begin exhibiting symptoms (incubation period) is 2-4 days.

*** Dogs at greatest risk visit doggie daycares, dog parks and boarding facilities.

While the vast majority of pets have had mild self-resolving clinical signs (e.g., nasal discharge, coughing, and mild fever and lethargy), there are reports of some becoming extremely ill to the point of requiring hospitalization. Clinical signs may also be very similar to other respiratory illnesses, like Bordetella/kennel cough, and the only way to definitively diagnose it is through a test run here that is submitted to the lab to identify the virus. This virus can be tricky because it doesn’t respond to antibiotics, but again – most dogs resolve just fine on their own or with a little bit of supportive care.

So, what should you do? – if your pet goes to daycare, or the dog park, training classes, boarding facilities, or travels with you – we would recommend that you either temporarily avoid these high risk situations, or have them boostered for both the Bordetella vaccine and the influenza vaccine to be safe, as these are the high risk populations. If your dog has not had this vaccine before, you can speak with your veterinarian regarding their risks and potentially adding the vaccine if needed!

If you would like to read more information, you can check out more here:

One final note – due to the outbreak and the number of people looking to vaccinate their dogs, there is a nationwide shortage of the vaccine, and it is currently on backorder. Our practice, like all the others at the moment, has a very small stock of this vaccine. So ideally, we should only be boostering those patients who are truly at high risk, until the vaccine manufacturers can catch up with demand (which will hopefully be within the next few weeks!)

Don’t panic – this too shall pass, but being an informed pet parent is a good place to start, to decide if your dog is at risk!

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