The recent news of canine influenza (flu) cases at the Oregon Humane Society (OHS) has raised some questions that we would like to answer. Much of this is from our blog in January 2016 with some pertinent updates.
Canine Flu was first recognized about a decade ago. There are two known strains of canine flu, H3N8 and H3N2. The strain currently identified at OHS is H3N2; this strain was previously identified in an outbreak in the Chicago area in March 2015 and the Seattle area in 2016. There have been no Portland outbreaks until the cases reported by OHS.
The disease is characterized by runny nose, coughing and fever. It is most commonly spread between dogs that are concentrated with other dogs such as day care facilities, boarding kennels or shelters. It is uncommon to spread casually among dogs, such as a dog walk. More often than not the signs are difficult to differentiate between kennel cough and flu. There are tests that are available that can help to confirm a suspected case of influenza. The vast majority of dogs that get flu will recover, although some will have a persistent cough for several weeks. Less than 1% of dogs in the Chicago outbreak died and we don’t have information on whether those dogs were geriatric, juvenile or had additional illnesses that made them more vulnerable to the effects of flu.
Prevention is important but not always practical. If you are concerned and would like to minimize your dog’s risk, consider avoiding any situation where dogs congregate. There is now, an approved vaccine for H3N8 and H3N2 strains of canine flu. Most of the data indicate that the vaccine does not prevent disease but lessens the severity of the symptoms and may reduce spread.
If you would like to discuss your dog’s needs regarding influenza feel free to make an appointment or plan on discussing it at your next scheduled visit. We have flu vaccine on hand for those who believe their dog is at risk or if your kennel or day care facility requires this vaccine.