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Canine Influenza Information

We are receiving a lot of calls with questions and concerns regarding the canine influenza outbreak in the Midwest. We want to let you know that while this is of course concerning to all of us, there is no need for panic. It appears that the dogs in Chicago were exposed to an Asian strain of the influenza virus. It is not contagious to humans, but causes a respiratory disease in dogs characterized by a honking cough, lethargy and sometimes fever and pneumonia. Over 1,000 dogs have been diagnosed thus far in Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana with varying severity of illness. 5-6 dogs have died.

 

It is important to understand that Canine Influenza is a rare disease with very sporadic outbreaks. It is not endemic in the dog population like Canine Distemper. Influenza seems to flare up every few years and disappear quickly. The experts predict that the outbreak in Chicago will likely run its course and disappear completely within the next 3 weeks.

 

There are several canine influenza vaccines available. Vaccination requires 2 doses at 3-4 weeks intervals and immunity is achieved 1-3 weeks after the second dose. It is not 100% effective and its efficacy against this Asian strain is unknown. We do not currently carry the flu vaccine, nor has it been recommended to any of our canine patients. This is a vaccine to be administered only to at-risk animals and determination of risk is challenging.

 

Many boarding facilities and dog parks are reacting aggressively to the outbreak and have started requiring vaccination prior to entering their facilities. Most veterinarians do not support this action and it is likely a reflex response so that they feel they are doing something to protect themselves and the dogs. If you will be required to have your dog vaccinated by a boarding kennel or when traveling, please let us know in advance and we will arrange to have your pet immunized.

 

The best way to protect your dog is to use caution in socializing and exposing your pet to other dogs for the time being. If at all possible, find in-home care for your pet rather than boarding, especially if traveling outside of the area. If your dog shows symptoms of being ill, contact us immediately. Use the same precautions when traveling with your dog as you would for yourself to avoid acquiring the flu virus.