What you need to know about Canine Influenza

I’ve decided I’m going to add some veterinary/health content to my Blog.  Generalities about issues/conditions relevant to the agility competitor.  I of course can’t offer specific medical advice to anyone–you should ALWAYS consult your veterinarian with any questions or concerns.  That’s what they’re THERE for.  I just hope to help give you some food for thought, and maybe a starting place for issues that may come up.  I hope to be adding some buttons to make it easier to sort through the blog by topic, specifically separating out agility-related posts from health-related posts.  If you have a specific topic you’d like me to cover, just comment or send me a message.  You might not be the only person with that question.  So, first post is about something I mentioned on Facebook the other day—Canine Influenza…


Dogs with canine influenza should NOT be frolicking in the bluebonnets…


There’s been some media coverage lately about Canine Influenza, the dog flu.  It is a mutated horse flu virus, that has actually been recognized since 2004.  The most severe outbreaks have been in greyhound kennels in Florida, and more recently, here in Texas, but it has been documented in 38 states to date.

Canine influenza is a respiratory virus that affects dogs in a similar fashion as the flu virus does to people.  It causes respiratory illness, and most dogs will have the mild version (80%).  The signs of canine influenza are typical of most respiratory viruses–cough, fever, nasal discharge–but canine influenza has the potential to become more severe then the average infection.  Just like with people, a few dogs will develop these signs, and a small percentage can even die from the infection.  The difference between the typical “kennel cough” and canine influenza is similar to the difference in people between a cold, and the flu.  The virus is spread in the air and through contact, so dogs that are in close proximity to other dogs (dog shows, dog parks, boarding, etc), will be at higher risk for exposure.

So, two companies now have a vaccine against Canine Influenza.  It isn’t perfect.  It doesn’t prevent infection, it lessens clinical signs.  But to me, for the high risk dog, it’s still worth considering.  None of us want to overvaccinate our dogs, though I’m sure I differ from some in what I consider overvaccination.  I’ve had canine influenza on my radar for awhile now, when the vaccine first became available.  I dismissed a lot of the hype, because the fact was, we weren’t seeing much of anything in Texas.  Then, last Thanksgiving, there was a confirmed outbreak in San Antonio.  And a couple of weeks ago, there were several deaths at the local greyhound track in League City, unconfirmed, but highly suspicious of canine influenza.  I took another hard look, and decided to go ahead and vaccinate my two actively competing dogs with the flu vaccine.

I had a couple of reasons.  The number of cases does seem to be increasing, and becoming more prevalent in the area.  I have not seen any reactions from the vaccine itself.  And, we’re about to be into our “indoor” trial season.  We don’t have a lot of summer trials here in Texas, but the ones we do are indoors, in air-conditioning.  Dogs will be in enclosed buildings, and in much closer confines, so they are at much higher risk of exposure.  I decided to focus on protecting my dogs now, and see what course the virus takes in the future.

So, talk to your vet about canine influenza.  Find out if it’s increasing in prevalence in your area.  Find out their experience with the vaccine.  And make a choice for yourself.  Don’t buy into media hype, but don’t dismiss it outright as another unnecessary vaccine either.  Be educated, and make your decision based upon THAT.  If you do decide to vaccinate, the vaccine will need to boostered in 3 weeks, and then annually, to continue to provide immunity.

If you want more information, you can check out the CDC’s Website

If your dog is coughing or showing respiratory signs, separate them from other dogs, and make an appointment with your veterinarian.

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