DEAR DR. FOX: I am worried about this “dog flu” virus that is going around, but I do not want to have my 12-year-old dog vaccinated. Should I stop taking her to the groomer and to our local park until winter comes? Will it be safe then? -- D.K.W., Springfield, Illinois
DEAR D.K.W.: Ask your veterinarian if it is safe now. This virus, of which there are at least two strains that can affect dogs, tends to appear and then move on from state to state.
Vaccines to protect dogs against both H3N8 and H3N2 canine flu are available in the United States. Your veterinarian can provide additional information about these vaccines and whether you should consider vaccinating your dog. If you feel uncomfortable about having your old dog vaccinated, then don’t be persuaded. Just keep the dog away from others if the veterinarian says that cases have been seen recently in your area.
Dog flu, also known as canine influenza virus (CIV), was first recognized in 2004 following an outbreak of severe respiratory illness at a greyhound racing facility in Florida. Eight of 22 affected dogs died due to extensive hemorrhage in the lungs. Fortunately, this was a small outbreak, due to the rapid institution of containment measures. Since that time, however, dog flu has been identified throughout the United States. The virus isolated was virtually identical with the H3N8 virus in equine influenza.
In March 2015, a severe outbreak of respiratory disease affecting over 1,000 dogs in the Chicago area was documented. The virus was typed as canine influenza virus H3N2, which had never been isolated previously in the U.S. The virus is of avian origin, and closely related to the South Korean canine influenza H3N2 strain. As of June 2017, this virus had spread to 31 states, and some cats were also infected. Both these and other strains of influenza virus can mutate and infect other hosts, including humans and other animal species. High concentrations of humans and of factory-farmed pigs and poultry, coupled with mobility/travel, create the ideal conditions for epidemics.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the signs of this illness in dogs are cough, runny nose, fever, lethargy, eye discharge and reduced appetite, but not all dogs will show signs of illness. The severity of illness associated with canine flu in dogs can range from no signs to severe illness resulting in pneumonia, and sometimes death. Most dogs recover within two to three weeks. However, some dogs may develop secondary bacterial infections, which may lead to more severe illness and pneumonia. The percentage of dogs infected with this disease that die from it is very small.
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