If you are a dog owner you have probably heard the words ‘dog flu’ recently, and there is a good reason for it. This is a recently discovered virus that mutated from other species influenza, and has been spreading at a fast pace for the last couple years.

There are two strains of CIV or ‘Canine Influenza Virus’ that have been identified in the United States, H3N8, originated from equine influenza, and H3N2, originated from avian influenza.  Canine H3N8 influenza was first identified in Florida in 2004 in racing greyhounds. Since then, canine H3N8 influenza has been identified in dogs in most U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Canine H3N2 influenza was first identified in the United States in March 2015 following an outbreak of respiratory illness in dogs in the Chicago area. Prior to this, it had only been reported in South Korea, China and Thailand. It was initially identified in dogs in Asia in 2006-2007 and likely arose through the direct transfer of an avian influenza virus – possibly from among viruses circulating in live bird markets – to dogs. In 2016 there were reports of cats infected by the H3N2 strain in Indiana.  In May 2017, canine H3N2 influenza was diagnosed in dogs in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Louisiana, and Illinois. This was the same strain of H3N2 involved in the 2015 outbreak in Chicago.  

Like in humans, this virus is mostly transmitted by aerosols or droplets from barking, coughing, etc… so dogs that go to places where they will be in close contact with other dogs (groomer, kennel, dog park…) are at increased risk of contracting it. Canine influenza can be contracted any time of the year, unlike other infectious diseases.

The scariest part is that dogs do not have any immunity to it, so about 80% of exposed animals will contract it, and around 20% of the animals that don’t develop signs will still shed the virus, potentially infecting other animals. This means that a dog that looks perfectly healthy could be shedding the virus and infecting other dogs that are not vaccinated, and those exposed unvaccinated dogs will most likely contract the disease. Luckily, most of the animals that show symptoms will only experience the mild form of the disease, but around 10% of them develop pneumonia, which can be in a lot of cases, fatal.

The good news is that there is a vaccine for it! It’s an annual vaccine and it protects against both strains of influenza.  Dogs that go to the groomer, kennels, dog parks, and are exposed to other dogs overall should receive this vaccine. Also, brachycephalic breeds (French bulldogs, English bulldogs, Pugs…) are predisposed to respiratory problems, so it is recommended vaccinating for both kennel cough and canine influenza to prevent issues in the future.

If your dog belongs to one of these groups and has not received an influenza vaccine you should contact your veterinarian! We are always happy to provide more information about it, and it is important that your dog is protected, not only for the dog that gets vaccinated, but also for the other potential dogs that could get infected from him/her!

Please give us a call at (856) 662-4450 or come see us at Pennsauken Animal Hospital at 6717 N Crescent Blvd, Pennsauken, NJ 08110 for more information on how to get your dog up to date on the flu vaccine!

*Epidemiology data obtained from the American Veterinary Medical Association.

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