The recent news of an influenza (flu) outbreak has raised some questions that we would like to answer.
Canine Flu was first recognized about a decade ago. The strain initially identified was H3N8. It has been “circulating” throughout the US since that time, with sporadic disease. The strain currently identified in Seattle is H3N2; this strain was previously identified in the outbreak in the Chicago area in March 2015.
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.
Prevention is important but not always practical. If you are concerned and would like to minimize your dogs risk, consider avoiding any situation where dogs congregate. There is an approved vaccine for H3N8, however, most experts believe that is will not cross protect for the “newer” strain (H3N2). A vaccine for H3N2 has a conditional license but this means that efficacy studies are not complete. Most of the data indicate that the vaccines do not prevent disease but lessen the severity of the symptoms and my reduce spread.
In short this current situation is somewhat of a “wait and see” scenario.
- We can vaccinate for H3N8
- H3N8 is not believed to be protective for the recent H3N2 which was responsible for the dog flu outbreaks in Seattle and Chicago
- There is no fully licensed vaccine for H3N2