Just like people, dogs can be affected by different strains of influenza (flu), a highly contagious respiratory infection. There are two strains of canine influenza known to affect dogs internationally. H3N8 broke out around 2004 in Florida and continues to cause occasional outbreaks. H3N2 was first seen in Chicago in 2015 and there are still outbreaks occurring in certain areas of the country. These strains of influenza are NOT the same as human influenza. At this time there is no evidence that canine influenza can be transmitted to people, or that human influenza can be transmitted to dogs.
Influenza can range from a mild form to a more severe form. The signs of the mild form generally include fevers, coughing, sneezing, and a runny nose, often very similar to the signs of kennel cough. These signs can last from 10-30 days. Dogs with the severe form of influenza can have very high fevers and develop pneumonia. Fatal cases of pneumonia have occurred but the fatality rate of canine influenza is less than 10%.
Cases of canine influenza have been reported throughout the country. As of the writing of this article (January 2018), the majority of cases are on the east coast, southeast, the midwest, and Texas. However, recent cases have been reported in northern Colorado.
As with human flu shots, a vaccine for one strain does not help prevent another strain. There is a new vaccine made by Zoetis that vaccinates against both current strains of canine influenza. This generally occurs as a booster series, with a second vaccine approximately two to four weeks after the first, then annually.
At this time most veterinarians in Colorado are not requiring the canine influenza vaccine. There have just been a few reports of this disease in Colorado. However, we are always cautious as an outbreak could easily occur if infected dogs are brought to Colorado from other areas. Dogs at higher risk of contracting this disease include dogs who go to dog parks, grooming facilities, dog shows, or boarding facilities. However, any dog can get canine influenza by being in close proximity to a dog with the disease.
If you are interested in having your dog vaccinated for canine influenza, please contact our office at 303-237-9542 and we can get that scheduled for you.
Julia Katzenbach, DVM