We would like to educate our clients about a newly emerging canine disease, the canine influenza virus. This is an influenza A, subtype H3N8 virus, which has mutated from the equine influenza virus. The horse flu, or equine influenza virus, has been around for 40 years, but has now transferred to dogs and has adapted to emerge as a new canine-specific virus. The first outbreak of this virus occurred in racing greyhounds in January 2004 at a racetrack in Florida. This virus is not transmitted to humans, or to other species such as cats, rabbits, ferrets, or birds.
This virus is transmitted by direct contact with infected dogs, and by aerosols generated by coughing and sneezing. Unfortunately, because this is a new virus in dogs, none of our pet dogs have any natural immunity. Thus, all dogs, regardless of breed or age, are susceptible to infection. Approximately 80% of exposed dogs will develop symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, or pneumonia, and approximately 8% will die.
One of the most disturbing things about this virus is that animals in the contagious stage are shedding the virus before symptoms appear. Infectious dogs may look and act perfectly normal, while spreading the disease to other dogs. For that reason, vaccination is the only practical way of preventing severe disease. This vaccine is recommended as a “lifestyle” vaccine, meaning for any dog with the lifestyle of participating in activities with many other dogs, including but not limited to boarding kennels, grooming stores, dog parks, doggie day care, pet stores, and dogs with owners working in the animal/veterinary industry.
A vaccine is now available for Canine Influenza. Therefore we are recommending vaccination for all at risk dogs. Like the human flu vaccine, the vaccine does not always completely protect pets from infection, but greatly reduces the severity and duration of illness.
Two injections, two to four weeks apart, are necessary to give immunity to the virus. To facilitate protection of your pet against the H3N8 Canine Influenza, Downtown Pet Hospital will offer the Canine Influenza Vaccine for $40.00 for the series of 2 injections. There will be no office visit charge for the initial 2 set series. Then, your pet will require an annual booster, at a cost of $20.00 per year. Please call our hospital, at 407-872-2228 for any questions or to schedule a technician appointment for this vaccine.