CANINE INFLUENZA UPDATE
There are many types of influenza viruses which infect many different species of animals. Some of them affect people only, while some infect only certain types of animals. As anyone who receives an annual “flu” vaccine knows, the virus strains can change periodically, and both human physicians and veterinarians monitor influenza virus infections to be aware of any specific changes which impact the risk of infection.
Over the past decade there have been sporadic outbreaks of influenza viruses that actually cause illness in dogs, resulting in upper respiratory signs of coughing and fever…very similar to “kennel cough” in dogs and the human influenza viruses. Most dogs recover quickly from these upper respiratory infections, but those with pre-existing health issues or that are under stress may become more seriously affected.
One of the first canine influenza outbreaks affected racing greyhound kennels in Florida, while a different strain showed up in the Chicago area two years ago. Most of the outbreaks have involved dogs which were in close contact with one another such as at dogs shows or boarding. Within the last two years several pharmaceutical companies have produced vaccines to help prevent the infections.
So far, only a very few cases have occurred in South Carolina, and each of them has been traced to dogs who had traveled to or boarded in areas in other states which were experiencing outbreaks. Although we are monitoring the situation, it is our assessment at this time that the very small risk of infection in this area does not warrant the vaccination of all dogs in the general population.
However, we do recommend vaccination for those dogs that are at the highest risk: dogs that participate in dog shows, dogs that actively play in dog parks with other dogs of unknown health status, and those dogs that are traveling to areas such as Florida that are currently experiencing outbreaks.
Vaccination requires two boosters three to four weeks part, and effective protection takes at least 4 weeks to develop.
If your dog is in one of these high-risk categories, or if you have any questions about canine influenza, please contact us to talk about this or other health issues.