Friday, March 25, 2016

Canine influenza

We have had multiple clients asking questions about canine influenza virus as there are many misconceptions about the disease out there. We do not want to scare owners, but are trying to protect our friends (dogs) and in the last 14 months there have been outbreaks in over 26 states.

Canine influenza is a relatively new disease commonly referred to as “dog flu.” and just like in humans, it can be caused by multiple strains of Canine Flu. And just like human flu is among humans, canine influenza is highly contagious among dogs. In fact, unless a dog has already had the illness and recovered, almost every dog exposed to the virus will become infected. Two different strains of canine influenza virus have been isolated in the US. Canine influenza virus H3N8 was first reported in 2003, and canine influenza virus H3N2 emerged in March 2015. These strains are not related. Therefore, dogs at risk should be vaccinated against both strains.  

This is because the viruses are relatively new, and dogs have no natural immunity to it.  Canine Flu Vaccine H3N8 was the first vaccine for canine influenza and still is highly effective against this strain. It has been clinically proven to significantly reduce the severity of influenza and the length of time that a dog is sick.  Canine Influenza Vaccine H3N2 has recently been developed to combat the rapid spread of the newer H3N2 canine influenza virus.

It is important to note that canine influenza is currently not like human influenza.  Human influenza will mutate, or change, frequently producing new strains of the virus. However, if a single dog contracts both strains of influenza, both H3N2 and H3N8, the virus will be able to mutate, or change, into a new strain of the virus.  Therefore, the influenza virus will have the capability to turn into a virus like the human influenza virus, which continually changes.  There is also a possibility that if this occurs, the virus may be able to jump to new species including humans. 

Currently neither strain has been shown to be transmittable to humans.  Since both strains of the virus have been noted in dogs in close proximity we need to protect canines and ourselves from the possibility of a mutating virus.  Therefore we are recommending that dogs be vaccinated against both strains of the influenza virus. 

The clinical signs of this disease vary from mild to severe, and some dogs have even died from the respiratory disease.  In Chicago there was an estimated 10,000 dogs affected by canine influenza virus. Some practices even closed their doors to treat only sick dogs.  One of Dr. Bailey’s friends was treating 20 or more dogs a day for this disease.  Also, there have been some cases in Northwest Indiana that were confirmed, but thankfully there has not been an outbreak like Chicago.  We have your pet’s best interest in mind and do not want to see anyone’s dog get infected by this virus. 

There are two separate strains of Canine Influenza and so there are separate vaccines for each strain. The drug companies are working on a vaccination that combines both strains but we have no time frame for when that will be completed.  The new vaccination requires a booster in 2 to 3 weeks when given for the first time.
To help with cost, the new vaccine will be $24.50 per shot and we will be offering the old vaccine at $12.50. If you have any more questions regarding Canine influenza you may contact us at Michigan City Animal Hospital 219-872-4191.

The Canine influenza virus (H2N8) has been around since 2004 when there were multiple outbreaks specifically in racing greyhounds.  Canine influenza is a respiratory disease that can cause clinical signs ranging from mild to extremely serious.  

The pharmaceutical companies were able to develop a vaccination to protect canines from the H2N8 strain of influenza and this vaccination has been on the market for years.  The outbreak of influenza that has recently occurred is from a different strain, H3N2 that originated from Asia. It is important to note that these two influenza strains have been the same for the last 5 years without mutation.  The Good news is that we now have a new vaccination to better protect our dogs from the most recent strain of influenza.  The pharmaceutical companies are continuing to guarantee the original H2N8 influenza vaccination for the next year.  If a dog was only vaccinated with the H2N8 influenza vaccine and the dog becomes infected with either strain of influenza, the manufacturer will pay for treatment through 2016. 

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