Canine Flu Update

The canine flu has been getting a lot of press lately; as a result, many questions have arisen as to whether or not to vaccinate, especially with the recent outbreak. Here are a few points to consider:

Just like the human flu virus, the dog flu is an airborne virus that is spread by coughing and sneezing via aerosolized respiratory secretions. The virus may spread through contaminated objects (kennel surfaces, food and water bowls, collars, leashes, etc.) and people moving between infected and uninfected dogs. It is not spread via urine or feces.

The virus can remain alive and able to infect surfaces for up to 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours, and on hands for 12 hours. It is easily killed by commonly used disinfectants – bleach, ammonia, even ordinary hand soap.

Dogs are infected with the virus for 2 – 4 days before the start of symptoms. They are actually the most contagious during the time, before they are exhibiting signs of illness. Contagiousness decreases dramatically during the first 4 days of illness but may continue up to 7 days in most dogs and, rarely, up to 10 days in a few dogs.

It is highly contagious from dog to dog but rarely fatal.

Symptoms include: fever (usually low grade), cough, nasal discharge, sneezing, ocular discharge, lethargy and anorexia.

More severely affected dogs can exhibit a high fever with an increased respiratory rate and other signs of pneumonia or bronchopneumonia (usually from secondary bacterial or mycoplasmal infections).

To protect your dog from the dog flu, keep your dog away from high-risk areas that include dog parks, kennels, doggy day care, grooming, training facilities and pet stores. Avoid popular walking areas for dogs as well.

A vaccine is available for the “traditional” canine flu, H3N8; however, the recent outbreak is from Asia, H3N2, which the vaccine is not effective. If you are interested in vaccinating your dog, a series of two vaccines given 3 to 4 weeks apart and then once a year thereafter is necessary. Protection does not reach its maximum until up to 7 days after the second booster. Although the vaccine can be helpful, pets can still get the canine flu even if vaccinated but the severity of the disease may be reduced.

Dr. Hermann

Ref: Information courtesy of Veterinary Specialty Center

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