Recently the news has featured many reports about the canine influenza outbreak that is affecting several states in the Midwest. Canine influenza is a highly contagious virus that can cause fever, cough and a persistent nasal discharge. This virus infects almost all dogs that are exposed to it, with roughly 80% of those infected becoming clinically ill. Most of the ill will experience a mild form of the disease, which normally includes a cough of one to two weeks. Normally this illness is treated with supportive care. Some patients, however, can develop pneumonia and will need more extensive treatment.
There has been a strain of canine influenza (H3N8), which has been present in the United States and Virginia since the early 2000’s. A vaccine is available for this strain, but as of yet there has not been a major outbreak in the Richmond area. The strain most recently reported in the news is a new H3N2 virus that began in Asia in 2006 or 2007. This strain has not been reported in Virginia and neither strain has been shown to infect humans. It is unclear as to whether the H3N8 vaccine produces cross-protection against the new H3N2 virus. For this reason Shady Grove Animal Clinic has elected not to begin vaccinating for the canine influenza virus.
For more information on the canine flu, check out the AVMA’s information page at CANINE INFLUENZA.