Canine Influenza

Vaccines are not without risk...

I believe vaccine recommendations should be personalized based on the lifestyle and disease risk to each pet while balancing potential adverse reactions. For example, we would not want to vaccinate a 50 pound lab who never leaves his yard (the Al Bundy type) the same way we vaccinate a social shitzu who visits groomers, day care, dog parks, and has an active social life rivaling the Kardashians. So how do you and your vet decide what vaccines are important?

Many vets, myself included, use the recommendations set out by AAHA. Core vaccines for healthy dogs include Rabies, Distemper, Parvovirus, Canine Adenovirus type 2. For non-core vaccines, you must decide whether the pet is at risk and vaccinate those who are. Social dogs including those who are boarded, groomed, group trained, or group walked are more at risk of infectious disease. According to AAHA, social dogs (or dogs who travel) should be vaccinated against Bordetella, adenovirus type 2, parainfluenza virus, and both types of canine influenza (H3N2 and H3N8). Leptospirosis is a very serious disease that can infect dogs and humans. At-risk dogs should be vaccinated for this as well.

There are many news stories about Canine Influenza Virus (CIV), as a newer strain has been reported in multiple states surrounding Arkansas. So what is Canine Influenza and what should we be doing about it here in Arkansas?

Canine Influenza Virus is an influenza A virus with 2 strains: H3N2 and H3N8. This is not a new disease but has been spreading rapidly through shelters, boarding/daycare facilities, dog parks and grooming facilities. H3N8 is linked to Equine Influenza and was first reported in the US in 2004 in greyhound racing grounds in Florida. This strain has been documented in Arkansas. The newer strain H3N2 was found to infect over 1000 dogs in Chicago shelters in 2015 and has now spread to Texas, Missouri, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and even Monroe, Louisiana. This strain likely originated from Avian Influenza and has not been documented in Arkansas but is spreading quickly in our neighboring states and was linked to a dog show in Florida.

So why should we be worried about this disease here in Arkansas? This is a new virus for our area that is highly contagious by aerosolized droplets, nasal secretions, direct contact, and even contaminated clothing or equipment. 80-90% of dogs exposed to the virus will become clinically infected. 20% of this population will show no signs of the infection but can spread the disease. Just like the flu in people, the virus is most contagious 2-4 days after exposure before pets develop clinical signs. This means that once a pet is coughing…it may have been sharing the virus for DAYS (sharing is NOT caring in this instance).

Symptoms of CIV can mimic symptoms of other respiratory diseases that we see often in Arkansas like kennel cough (Bordetella). This complicates rapid diagnosis, isolation, and treatment for our at risk pets. Symptoms of CIV include a frequent dry cough, nasal secretions, a low grade fever, and lethargy. 20% of pets will develop a more severe systemic infection with a high fever and profound lethargy. 5-8% of pets will develop a hemorrhagic pneumonia. Symptoms can be mild and self limiting or more severe requiring hospitalization, antibiotics for secondary infections, IV fluids, or even oxygen. There is no cure for influenza so treatment is supportive care for the duration of the disease. Infected pets can spread the virus for 7-21 days! Any coughing dog should be isolated for 21 days.

It is important that we have a conversation about lifestyle, history of vaccine reactions, chronic disease (like anemia) and make the best recommendation for your pet!

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