The canine influenza virus (H3N8) is a recent mutant from the equine influenza virus (that has been around for greater than 100 years). [H1N1 is the swine flu.] Very few dogs have ever been exposed to this new virus and very few dogs are being vaccinated against the disease. The disease is still quite uncommon, outbreaks are uncommon, and the consequences are significant although rarely fatal. A problem with the control of the disease is the same that occurs with most influenza viruses – human and veterinary: the disease is most contagious before the patient exhibits any clinical signs of the disease.
One occurrence in Texas. It occurred in a veterinary clinic that also serves as a boarding facility. The disease was brought into the facility by a boarding dog. Within a couple of days the veterinary clinic and the boarding facility were forced to shut down completely and the disease was ultimately diagnosed in thirty dogs and was suspected in another sixty dogs. No dogs died although three of them were “very ill”. It took the entire staff of the facility, dressed in disposable gowns, gloves, hairnets, and booties three days to wipe down and disinfect the facility. From my reading of the description of the outbreak, no one was happy – not the veterinarian, the staff, the owners of the sick dogs, nor the owners of the dogs who were denied veterinary and boarding services during the clean up.
There has been an outbreak of Canine Influenza in a veterinary/boarding facility in the Tri-Cities area within the last 18 months but that outbreak was not as severe as the outbreak described above.
Eighty percent of all dogs exposed to this virus are expected to experience some degree of illness unless the dog has been properly vaccinated against the disease. As with any vaccination against any disease, vaccination needs to be considered as ‘insurance’ against the probability of developing a disease. Is the cost of the insurance (vaccine) less than the risk of the disease – or not? Is your dog’s health less important than the cost of the vaccine?
The Elizabethton Veterinary Clinic's facility and staff devote our full attention to veterinary medicine. Therefore, we do not routinely have unexamined animals in our facility. This significantly reduces the probability of getting the virus in our facility; but, it does not eliminate the possibility of having a sick dog bring the disease into the facility. As of this writing, vaccination seems to be the only effective preventive measure available.
For the health of your dog, we do recommend the use of the Canine Influenza virus vaccine along with the other more routine vaccines. Please read the article titled CANINE INFLUENZA within this group of newsletters.