Dr. Baillie writes: Recently, in both Minnesota and the national news, there have been reports of an outbreak of Canine Influenza H3N8 and increased recommendation for vaccinating certain dogs against this virus. We have been following this story through the professional publications and want to put this story in context.
This virus is a mutation of the Horse Influenza virus and has caused significant outbreaks of respiratory disease; it started at greyhound tracks in 2004 and then spread to boarding facilities and dog parks in the Eastern and Southern states. The virus causes significant respiratory disease. The main symptoms are cough, runny nose and fever. Many exposed dogs will develop antibodies and clear the infection without getting sick. It spreads rapidly when close-proximity conditions exist, primarily by aerosol spread and direct contact with infected dogs. It is similar to human influenza in that symptoms will vary tremendously between infected individuals; some will have mild signs and others developing much more serious disease. The biggest risk is the concern for secondary bacterial pneumonia.
Treatment approaches would be to prevent dehydration and place infected dogs on antibiotics. We recommend that any dog with respiratory symptoms be seen and consideration be given to starting antibiotics. Although there have been deaths associated with this virus, overall most dogs will respond to treatment and nursing care. Vaccination does exist for this virus, but vaccinated dogs may still acquire the virus, show some signs of illness, and shed the virus.
The important thing to recognize that there has not been a case of this disease confirmed in Minnesota, Wisconsin or Iowa yet. Screening tests are available for this virus and other causes of dog respiratory disease. We will be happy to discuss testing your dog and treating if needed.
Currently, we are not recommending routine vaccination for Canine Influenza. If you intend to travel to the East or South especially over the holidays or winter, and your dog will be going to dog parks or be boarded during your travels, please contact us to discuss the possibility of vaccinating your dog. The vaccine is a series of two injections a couple weeks apart and it would be best to do this in advance of traveling.
Do call us with any questions about canine influenza and the health of your pet. We'll be glad to consult with you. http://www.cedarpetclinic.com