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.