ASK THE VET

Canine influenza vaccine not recommended for all dogs

5/19/2013
BY DR. GARY THOMPSON

What is your view on the canine influenza vaccination? Is it the same in all parts of the country? I'm planning to move back to Idaho soon and would like to have the facts for Ohio, Idaho, and for the vaccination in general.

The canine H3N8 influenza virus was initially detected in a population of racing greyhounds in Florida in 2004. There have been outbreaks in shelters and the occasional boarding facility since then across the country. It is from the influenza A family and is closely related to the equine influenza virus. Influenza viruses have the well-documented ability to “jump” species and it is now widely accepted that the virus successfully made the transition from horses to dogs. Fortunately, there is no concern over the virus infecting people.

Symptoms of canine influenza generally fall into two broad categories. Most dogs are affected with a chronic cough and nasal discharge that can last up to three weeks. This cough does not respond to antibiotics or cough suppressants. Occasionally a low-grade fever can also accompany this type of infection. The more serious and less common type of infection includes pneumonia and a high fever, sometimes over 104 degrees. This less common condition can lead to life-threatening complications in 1 to 5 percent of cases.

Diagnosis is made by sending swabs or blood samples to the lab and detecting antibodies to the virus. Symptoms alone are not enough because canine influenza has similar symptoms to a very common upper respiratory condition broadly labeled as kennel cough. These upper respiratory conditions are highly contagious and can be spread by casual contact between dogs. Sharing common areas, bowls, or toys with infected dogs also can spread the disease.

The vaccine was developed and released in 2009. It is recommended only for dogs that are at a high risk for exposure in large-scale boarding operations, racetracks, and shelters. Your veterinarian will help you decide what your dog's lifestyle and exposure risks may be. This applies to many vaccines your pets may need, so talk to your veterinarian about what is best. I can’t speak to the occurrence of canine influenza in Idaho, so I would suggest once you are settled and have found a veterinary hospital, find out their recommendation.

Questions for Dr. Gary Thompson can be emailed to askthevet@theblade.com or mailed to The Blade, Attn. Ask the Vet, 541 N. Superior St., Toledo, OH 43660. Dr. Thompson regrets that he cannot answer individual letters.