Fever, coughing, and runny nose all mean one thing – the flu. Only this time we are talking about Canine Influenza. For dogs, there is no specific flu season, although when people are traveling and boarding their dogs, the incidence of contagious viruses like influenza tend to rise. We have had two recent outbreaks of canine influenza in the Bay Area. How can you protect your pups against this virus? Is your dog even at risk and in need of protection? Here is some information to help understand this newer strain of influenza we are seeing in our area, and if vaccination is what is best for your dogs.
Canine influenza is a respiratory virus that most commonly causes a cough, lethargy, sneezing, and nasal discharge. Most pets do not require hospitalization to treat the virus. Some pets who have a compromised immune system or are elderly are at a greater risk of developing secondary pneumonia or needing medical attention during an active infection. Many pets will also have a fever and a few may develop vomiting and diarrhea.
The reason this virus has been on the news lately is that the strains of influenza veterinarians are seeing are new to the canine population, therefore, almost all dogs are susceptible making this virus highly contagious. Once a dog has had the influenza virus, it can continue shedding the virus for up to 30 days (even if they are no longer acting sick). This means if your dog does become sick from influenza you should avoid contact with other dogs for 30 days to prevent spreading the infection.
If your dog is in a high-risk category (goes to grooming facilities, boarding or daycare facilities, dog parks, agility or dog shows, the beach, traveling), it is strongly recommended to vaccinate against influenza. The preferred vaccine is a bivalent vaccine (contains both strains of influenza virus, H3N2, and H3N8). Please discuss whether your dog should receive vaccination with your veterinarian. You can also visit this helpful website: www.dogflu.com.