Canine Influenza - should my dog be vaccinated?
There are two known strains of Canine Influenza viruses now recognized. The original one, H3N8, was first noticed in racing greyhounds in Florida in 2004. It has been joined more recently by the H3N2 strain, responsible for outbreaks in Chicago and throughout the Midwest.
Recent reports have indicated that the H3N2 strain has been identified in at least 25 states, with the H3N8 variety found in 41 states. Dog owners and dog park users should take note of such symptoms as cough, runny nose, sneezing, and fever, and see a veterinarian if their dog seems ill.
A major concern with the influenza viruses is that, unlike most common causes of respiratory disease, many dogs have never been exposed, and thus have had no chance to develop an immunity.
The viruses can be transmitted through contact with infected dogs or contaminated objects, including people's hands and their clothing, or by airborne droplets from a cough or sneeze. Those at highest risk are those dogs who spend significant time at dog parks, kennels, groomers, doggie daycare, or any other high canine traffic areas, including shows and rescues.
If you feel your dog is at risk, there are now vaccines for both strains of Canine Influenza. The initial series consists of 2 vaccinations, 2 to 4 weeks apart. Boosters then follow annually. Up until recently, protecting your dog from both strains required separate vaccines for each. However, Grove Center now stocks, and uses, a bivalent vaccine which protects against both with one injection.
It is important to note that the vaccines do not prevent infection. What they do is decrease the severity of disease and cut down on the number of virus particles shed into the environment.
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* One final thing to take note of - a group of cats at a shelter in northwestern Indiana, in April of 2016, was identified as being infected with the H3N2 strain of the canine virus. Tests have shown that the virus can replicate and spread from cat to cat. At this time, however, no vaccine is available for that species.