Many of our clients are asking about the recent outbreak of Canine Influenza that has been in the news a lot lately. First, it should be said that there have been no reported cases in Michigan. Canine Influenza is not a reportable disease, like Tuberculosis. It has received such a significant amount of attention, if there is a case found in Michigan we will certainly be updating you with that information.

Scientists at Cornell University have recently identified this current strain to be closely related to the Influenza A H3N2 strain, which is in wide circulation in southern China and South Korea. The recent outbreak that we have observed in the Chicago area was originally thought to be the H3N8 strain, which was identified in the US population of dogs in 2004. This is the strain that the current Canine Influenza vaccine is based on, which means that our current vaccine may not be 100% protective but should offer some level of immunity. If you are concerned about your dog or are planning on traveling through the Chicago area, a 2 shot series of the Canine Influenza vaccine is recommended. The second shot should be received at least 2 weeks before traveling.

The first outbreak of Canine Influenza was recognized in racing Greyhounds in 2004 at a track in Florida. From June to August of 2004, outbreaks were identified at 14 tracks in 6 states. In 2006, outbreaks occurred at 20 tracks in 11 states. Since then Canine Influenza has been documented in 30 states and Washington D.C. It is considered endemic in areas of Colorado, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania.

Canine Influenza is transmitted through aerosolized respiratory secretions that can contaminate surfaces such as kennel floors and walls, food and water bowls and toys. The virus can remain viable for up to 48 hours.

Incubation time from exposure to clinical signs is usually 2-4 days. Virtually all dogs exposed to the virus become ill, as there is no naturally acquired or vaccine induced immunity. Like most other influenza viruses, Canine Influenza causes acute respiratory signs – mild to moderate cough lasting 10-21 days. These signs may persist despite antibiotics and cough suppressants. Affected dogs may have a soft moist cough, or it can be a dry cough similar to what we see in Kennel Cough. Nasal and/or ocular discharge, sneezing, lethargy and anorexia may also be observed, as well as a low-grade fever.

Some dogs may be more severely affected with clinical signs of pneumonia, such as high-grade fever and an increased respiratory rate and/or effort.

Treatment is largely supportive, as it is for all viral diseases. Nutritional support, anti-inflammatories to keep fevers down, antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections and, if necessary, intravenous fluids to maintain hydration. Most dogs recover in 2-3 weeks.

In May 2009, the USDA approved the licensure of the the first H3N8 (not the same strain as this current outbreak) Canine Influenza vaccine. The vaccine is intended as an aid in the control of the disease associated with the Canine Influenza infection. Although the vaccine may not prevent infection altogether, it should significantly reduce the severity and duration of clinical signs.

The Canine Influenza vaccine is a “life style” vaccine, and as such, is not necessary for every dog. At this time, the Howell Animal Hospital does have the vaccine available but we recommend that only dogs that may be travelling through the Chicago area or that are attending events that may include dogs from that area be vaccinated.

As always, if you have any question or concerns regarding this disease, the vaccine that is available or any other questions about your companion animals health and well-being, please do not hesitate to call our office.