Achoo! An Update on Canine Flu

Dog under blanketThe Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) or canine flu has once again emerged this spring. Last year’s outbreak in the Chicagoland area had many owners in a tailspin as kennels, dog parks, and grooming salons closed in an attempt to stop the illness from spreading.

Recently, the team at Prairie Ridge Veterinary Clinic has become aware of cases in in Peoria and Bloomington.  That’s only an hour or so away! Because the latest strain of CIV is new, knowing the facts about this virus is one of the best ways to protect your four-legged friend.

A Few Facts About Canine Flu

Despite the disturbing spread of canine flu, complex respiratory illnesses are nothing new. Infections such as kennel cough and the flu strain H3N8 have been around for a while, infecting hundreds of thousands of pets throughout the country (which is why we advocate for vaccination).

What’s disconcerting about the 2015-2016 outbreaks is that they’re caused by a new strain of CIV: H3N2. H3N2 was an avian virus that mutated and infected dogs (and some cats) in Asia. It was introduced to the United States in 2015. Given that this is a new strain of CIV, all dogs (unless vaccinated) are at risk.

As with other respiratory infections, the virus is passed through contact with an infected animal. Areas where pets are in close quarters (e.g., kennels, shelters, day care facilities) are particular hotspots.  

Clinical symptoms of canine flu include:

  • Persistent cough
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sneezing

These mild to moderate symptoms emerge within a few days of exposure and often last 2-3 weeks. CIV can result in pneumonia and dangerously high fevers. This more severe form of the illness often affects senior pets, puppies, and those with compromised immunity.

What’s Being Done

As of last November, a vaccine (for dogs only) was made available to slow the spread of this fast-moving virus. However, the vaccine for H3N2 differs from the H3N8 vaccine, so if your dog was inoculated prior to late 2015, he or she is likely susceptible to this new strain.

Many owners wonder if their dog is at risk – particularly those with pets who spend most of their time at home. Our team would like to stress how contagious H3N2 is and to remind guardians that many veterinary clinics require vaccination before providing certain services. This not only protects your pet but also safeguards our entire community or owners and their companions.

Because the vaccine is a two-part injection requiring a few weeks between shots, we recommend acting sooner rather than later (and at least a month prior to traveling with your dog).

To learn more about CIV H3N2 and how you can protect your best friend, please contact us. We will continue to provide updates to our family of clients as new developments arise.

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