Most dog people have heard of the shocking outbreak of Canine Influenza in and around Chicago. Some veterinarians and pet related media have been instructing people to avoid taking their dogs to areas where other dogs gather, such as dog parks and boarding kennels. Five dogs have died and over 1000 have been reported ill.
In addition to shunning multiple dog situations, people were being advised to vaccinate their dogs for canine influenza as soon as possible. The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that previously all cases of Canine Influenza (CI) have been caused by the H3N8 strain which is the strain protected for by the current vaccines. However this newest outbreak was just identified to be caused by a novel strain (H3N2) not previously found in the US. The current vaccine for Canine Influenza may be ineffective against H3N2.
Because Canine Influenza is very infectious among dogs (although is not thought to be a risk to any other species), the AVMA says, “Dog owners should be aware that any situation that brings dogs together increases the risk of spread of communicable illnesses.… As long as good infection control practices are in place, pet owners should not be overly concerned about putting dogs in training facilities, dog parks, kennels, or other areas frequented by dogs.”
It is very important to know that CI is not the same as Kennel Cough for which we have an effective vaccine. Make sure your dog is current on his Kennel Cough vaccine if he is ever in situations where he could be exposed to other dogs. Many of the severe cases of CI have been complicated by other agents and pneumonia, so making sure your dog is current on all of his routine vaccines besides influenza vaccine is critical.
Most cases of CI have been mild, but as with any infectious agent, it is wise to be vigilant. Ask questions before exposing your dog to others and if your dog seems ill, especially if he is coughing, it is imperative to see your vet and understand that all respiratory vaccines could be helpful in preventing secondary infection, but the flu vaccine might not be protective in these cases.
Panic is not a good idea. Being selective about exposing your dog to others is smart. Going straight to your vet and demanding a flu vaccine might not be the best route either, but it is important to make sure that your healthy dog is always caught up on his vaccines so that these preventable problems do not cause secondary issues to the ones we cannot prevent.