There have been reports of recent pockets of outbreaks of canine influenza virus (dog flu) in various parts of the country. As with the human influenza, the dog flu will remain with us. The difference now is that we know what the viruses are that cause two different strains of influenza, and that helps veterinarians diagnose and treat the illness properly. There are now vaccines available for both known strains of canine influenza: H3N8 and the more recent H3N2. In fact, you may be able to obtain one vaccine for both.
Dogs most susceptible to the canine influenza are those that frequent communal activities: competitive dog events, dog parks, grooming shops, day care and boarding facilities, but all dogs can contract the virus from other infected dogs or from vectors (inanimate objects such as dog bowls, clothing, etc.) that have recently been exposed to the virus. People do NOT become infected from infected influenza dogs, and dogs do not become infected from infected humans with the flu.
Is There a Dog Flu Shot, and Should My Dog Get it?
The good news is, the dog flu shot is widely available. The first vaccine was approved in 2009 and initial tests showed no side effects.
A dogâs risk of exposure to the virus increases if they spend time at a kennel or go to daycare, the groomer, dog parks or dog-friendly gatherings, or if a human in the house works around dogs.Â
The vaccine may not prevent an infection, but it can reduce its severity and duration. A bivalent vaccine that offers protection against both strains is also available. Ask your veterinarian about whats best for your dog.
What is Dog Flu and Where Did It Come From?
There are two identified strains of influenza virus that can affect our dogs and are classified as H3N8 and H3N2. The first recognized outbreak of the H3N8 strain of canine influenza occurred in January 2004 at a greyhound race track in Florida. There have been reported cases in a total of 11 states in the U.S., but only among dogs in race track facilities.
The H3N2 virus was first identified in Asia in 2006. There is no evidence to confirm, but it is suspected that in 2015 the H3N2 strain was introduced to the United States by dogs that were rescued and imported from Asia. This U.S. introduction occurred in Chicago when several dogs at a boarding facility became ill. The company quickly shut down multiple Chicago locations for disinfection, but not before the city experienced the worst outbreak in 35 years. At that time there were over 1,000 cases of infectious respiratory disease reported. From there the H3N2 virus spread through the Midwest and continued to stretch throughout the country.
Does My Dog Need A Flu Shot?
Living in the Northeast, there are those of us that dread the snow, ice and frigid temperatures while others can’t wait to frolic in the fresh powder or bundle up for some sledding. We will remain split down the middle on that debate, but one thing we all can agree on is that there is nothing worse than flu season.
As humans, we’re fortunate enough that the flu is generally limited to a season. Our canine friends, however, are not so lucky. Canine Influenza (or dog flu) is a highly contagious disease that is a threat all year round.