Canine Influenza

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Canine influenza has been making the news lately and we wanted to share some information in response to some of the questions we have been receiving.

HOW PASSED – The virus is passed through respiratory secretions (similar to how kennel cough is passed). Thus, dogs who frequent dog parks, boarding facilities or other canine communal events are most susceptible. In addition, the young, old and immunosuppressed may be more at risk.

INCUBATION PERIOD – The time from exposure to clinical signs (incubation period) is 2-4 days. A canine can contract the infection and spread virus prior to showing clinical signs. The virus is typically shed for up to 7-10 days.

CLINICAL SIGNS – Clinical signs include coughing that persists for 1-3 weeks, nasal discharge, sneezing, lethargy, loss of appetite and fever. A more severe case could progress to pneumonia.

INFECTION RATES – 80% of dogs exposed to the virus will show clinical signs. However, the mortality rate is less than 10%. Mortality from the influenza virus typically occurs as a result of severe pneumonia. Again, the young, old and immunosuppressed are most likely to have difficulty overcoming the virus.

DIAGNOSIS – Diagnosis is made based on clinical signs and confirmed with bloodwork that tests for the virus (serology/titers).

TREATMENT – The treatment is largely supportive care (fluids, medications to reduce fever and antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial infections if needed).

VACCINATION – As of April 22nd, Cornell University announced that the current influenza outbreak involves an Asian strain (H3N2) previously never seen in the US. Prior outbreaks involved a different strain (H3N8). This H3N8 strain was used in the development of the canine influenza vaccine that is currently available.

We have been in touch with both state and national organizations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the Tennessee Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) seeking advice on current action that needs to be taken in response to this influenza outbreak in the Midwest. The following information is consistent across conversations with each of these groups:

*** It is unknown if the current vaccine that is available will prevent transmission of the canine flu strain that is causing this outbreak. It is possible that the vaccine could limit the severity of infection in an exposed pet.

*** Reasonable geographic separation from the Midwest (of which we are included) offers enough of a buffer to safely conclude that widespread vaccination of all dogs is not recommended at this time.

*** It is reasonable to consider vaccination in dogs whose lifestyle involves congregating with large groups of other dogs whose travel history and current health status cannot be known. For instance, daycare programs with communal play, boarding and canines in the show circuit.

*** It would be prudent to not take dogs to the Midwest during this outbreak, and if that cannot be avoided, to have that dog vaccinated at least one month in advance of such travel.

*** This will likely be an evolving process and recommendations could change as more information is made available.

Article by:

Animalia Franklin TN

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