Canine Influenza

By Liz Wallace, Covenant College

On June 23, 2009 the first ever vaccine for canine influenza was introduced. Canine Influenza Vaccine, H3N8 Killed Virus, helps to prevent the virus from manifesting and it helps prevent the severity of the symptoms.

Canine influenza is a fairly new virus among dogs that was first discovered in 2004. It is a highly contagious respiratory virus that is most commonly found in shelters or boarding facilities. Anywhere there are large groups of dogs living together.

Because the virus is caused by a unique pathogen, dogs do not have any immunity to it. 100% of dogs exposed will contract the virus. Out of 100 exposed, only 80 will show signs of the virus but all will be contagious.

Symptoms of canine influenza include:
• Coughing and sneezing
• Ocular and nasal discharge (can be thick and heavy)
• Depression
• Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
• Lung Lesions

It may appear to be a really bad case of kennel cough (Bordetella) but the normal vaccine is not effective against this new bug.

In the past this virus has been treated with a broad-spectrum bactericidal antimicrobial which has only been mildly successful, mainly with weak cases. The mortality rate for the virus is as high as 1 in 20. The virus was first detected at the race tracks, so most fatalities to date have been Greyhounds that have developed pneumonia.

While most family dogs will never come in contact with this virus at home, it is possible for them to pick it up elsewhere. The virus has been documented in Georgia and your pet can be exposed at doggie daycare, boarding facilities, Vet’s offices, the dog park, or anywhere else other dogs roam. Boarding facilities and groomers will soon start requiring vaccination against the H3N8 if they have not already. Talk to your Vet about whether or not your dog should be vaccinated. The vaccine is safe and reaction free. It’s given by two separate injections, two to 4 weeks apart.

For more information on K9 Influenza visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention

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