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Canine Influenza Virus: Should You Vaccinate?

Well, it was just a matter of time. Canine Influenza Virus has made it to the west coast.  We have been lucky in Bend so far- no reported cases as of the day I write this post. Portland has had confirmed cases and most of you have heard of the outbreak in California. Now is the time to think about whether the vaccine is right for you and your pet.

Canine Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory virus that has been caused by 2 strains of influenza A.  While it does not live in the environment long, it is easily transmitted by close contact with an infected and contagious dog. Animals are contagious before they have any symptoms. This makes it particularly difficult to control an outbreak. There are 2 syndromes seen with influenza: the mild form and the severe form.

Symptoms: Symptoms of the mild form of Canine Influenza Virus includes a cough that persists for 10 to 30 days. The cough can be soft and wet or dry and honking (similar to kennel cough).  These dogs are lethargic, have a decreased appetite and  fever. In the severe form of the disease, the dogs develop a high fever (temperatures as high as 104F to 106F) and pneumonia.  Symptoms of pneumonia include increased respiratory rate and effort. In both of these syndromes, they can have thick nasal discharge.

Transmission: The virus is spread through aerosolized infectious secretions or direct contact with saliva and mucous. Contact with infected toys is another potential mode of transmission.

Treatment: Treatment is geared toward supportive care.  Fluids, cough suppressants and anti-viral medications are used in the mild form. Dogs with the severe form of the disease are often hospitalized on IV Fluids, IV antibiotics (to treat secondary bacterial pneumonia), oxygen and antiviral medication. 

Who is at risk? Because dogs in the United States have not been exposed to Canine Influenza Virus before, nearly all animals who are exposed become infected.  Some of the animals that become infected will fight it off before they have any clinical signs.  Animals that frequent dog parks, groomers,  daycare, boarding faculties, dog shows, etc are at higher risk for exposure.  The very young, geriatric and those with respiratory compromise are at higher risk for severe disease.  To date, there are no known cases of Canine Influenza that has been transmitted to humans.  However, there have been cases of Canine Influenza in cats, guinea pigs and ferrets.

The Vaccine: At Riverside Animal Hospital we are using the bivalent vaccine to protect our patients against canine influenza virus.  This means it has both of the strains of  virus (H3N1 and H3N8) in the vaccine.  As with the human vaccine, it will not completely prevent the disease but it will lessen the severity of the symptoms and duration of clinical signs.  The vaccine is administered sub-cutaneously in the left shoulder. This injection is repeated in 3 weeks. Full immunity is achieved 3 to 4 weeks later when the immune system has had time create protective antibodies against the virus.

For more information regarding canine influenza virus, check out the AVMA website on Canine Flu

For information on our vaccine protocols visit, vaccine protocols.

Please call us at Riverside Animal Hospital with any questions regarding Canine Influenza and whether this vaccine is right for your pet.