There have been reports of recent pockets of outbreaks of canine influenza virus (dog flu) in various parts of the country. As with the human influenza, the dog flu will remain with us. The difference now is that we know what the viruses are that cause two different strains of influenza, and that helps veterinarians diagnose and treat the illness properly. There are now vaccines available for both known strains of canine influenza: H3N8 and the more recent H3N2. In fact, you may be able to obtain one vaccine for both.
Dogs most susceptible to the canine influenza are those that frequent communal activities: competitive dog events, dog parks, grooming shops, day care and boarding facilities, but all dogs can contract the virus from other infected dogs or from vectors (inanimate objects such as dog bowls, clothing, etc.) that have recently been exposed to the virus. People do NOT become infected from infected influenza dogs, and dogs do not become infected from infected humans with the flu.
The canine influenza vaccine is a “lifestyle” vaccine, and is not recommended for every dog. In general, the vaccine is intended to protect dogs at risk for exposure to the canine influenza virus, which includes those that participate in activities with many other dogs or are housed in communal facilities, particularly where the virus is prevalent. Dogs that may benefit from canine influenza vaccination include those that receive the kennel cough (Bordetella/parainfluenza) vaccine, because the risk groups are similar. Dog owners should consult with their veterinarian to determine their dog’s risk of exposure to the canine influenza virus and if vaccination is appropriate for their dog.
Features of Canine Influenza Vaccine
Canine influenza virus (CIV) is primarily the result of two influenza strains: H3N8 from an equine origin and H3N2 from an avian origin. Both of these strains were previously known to infect species other than dogs, but are now able to infect and spread among dogs.
The H3N8 equine influenza virus has been recognized in horses for more than 40 years. In 2004, the H3N8 influenza virus or ‘flu’ appears to have ‘jumped’ from horses to dogs. The virus had mutated into a form known as canine influenza virus (CIV) that is highly infective for dogs. At first, veterinarians thought the H3N8 canine flu would be quite lethal. Fortunately, like the human flu virus, it kills very few healthy individuals. Since its detection in 2004, H3N8 canine influenza has been detected in most states. The disease was discovered by Dr. Cynda Crawford from the University of Florida and she estimated that the H3N8 strain kills between 1% and 5% of dogs that contract it, with most of the deaths being in dogs that have serious concurrent illnesses. That’s nothing to sneeze at. The 1918 Spanish flu had a mortality rate of only 2%
Prevention and control
The canine influenza virus may persist in the environment for approximately 2 days, and be viable on hands and clothing for up to 24 hours. In veterinary, boarding, and shelter facilities, the canine influenza virus appears to be easily killed by disinfectants commonly used in those facilities, such as quaternary ammonium compounds (eg, benzalkonium chloride), aldehydes, potassium peroxymonosulfate, phenols and bleach (1:30 dilution) solutions. Cleaning and disinfection protocols should be established to reduce the risk of virus transmission through indirect contact with people or other fomites (e.g. cages, bowls, exam rooms, etc.).
Veterinary expertise is required to determine treatment options and the best course of treatment. Treatment for canine influenza, as for most viral diseases, is largely supportive. Good husbandry and nutrition may help dogs mount an effective immune response. Most dogs recover from canine influenza within 2-3 weeks. Secondary bacterial infections, pneumonia, dehydration, or other health factors (e.g., pregnancy, pre-existing pulmonary disease, immunosuppression, tracheal collapse, etc.) may necessitate additional diagnostics and treatments including, but not limited to:
- Antimicrobials for known or suspected secondary bacterial infections.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications as needed to reduce fever and inflammation.
- Fluids to help correct dehydration or maintain hydration
Dosage and administration
- 1 mL subcutaneous injection
- Booster two to four weeks later
- Historically, annual revaccination has been recommended for this product. The need for this booster has not been established. Contact your veterinarian or manufacturer for more information on revaccination frequency.
- Available in a 25 x 1 mL dose presentation
Prices of Canine Influenza Vaccine