In 2015, thousands of dogs in the Chicagoland area were innocently exposed to a newly arrived Canine Influenza Virus from South Korea, called H3N2. Daycare and boarding facilities were voluntarily closed for weeks to minimize viral spread. Dog owners avoided taking their pets to dog parks, daycare and grooming parlors. Many ill dogs presented to us and other Chicagoland veterinarians with a deep cough, runny nose, lethargy, depressed appetite and fever. Most ill pets required significant medical care for up to three to six weeks.
Canine influenza is a highly contagious virus and is spread from one dog to another dog via respiratory secretions. A single cough from an infected dog can spread the virus up to 20 feet onto clothing items, hands, and the environment. The virus can remain viable (alive and able to infect) on surfaces up to 48 hours, on clothing 24 hours, and on hands 12 hours. This disease has a relatively short incubation period of 2 to 5 days. Affected pets can be ill up to 6 weeks and are infectious to other dogs for up to 21 days. During this infectious period, we recommend isolating ill pets from well pets. Good news, Canine Influenza is not contagious to humans.
At the time of the 2015 Chicago Canine Influenza Outbreak, veterinarians did not have an effective vaccine for this new strain. Good news, today we have a bivalent vaccine for Canine Influenza, that helps protect pets against both strains of Canine Influenza – H3N2 (which first appeared in 2015) and H3N8 (which first appeared in 2008 at a Florida greyhound racetrack).
In most cases, we recommend this new Bivalent Canine Influenza vaccine to dogs who are:
- Social – like to play with other dogs or go to dog parks.
- Going to grooming parlors, daycare or/and boarding facilities.
- Immunocompromised or visit a veterinary clinic often.
- Living in a multiple pet household or/and in an apartment building where shared spaces exist– like hallways, backyards and elevators.
Have a dog walker.
Initially, this new vaccine is given in a series of two injections separated by 2-4 weeks. It can be given to any pet over 6 weeks of age. Protection against this virus is achieved 2 weeks after the second vaccine. After the initial series, it is repeated yearly. Since investigators do not know if a previous natural exposure leads to long term protection against this virus, I recommend waiting 6 months after your pet has completely recovered from canine influenza before getting this vaccine.
If your pet ONLY received the single strain H3N2 Canine Influenza vaccine in the past, we recommend that you re-start this vaccine series with the new BIVALENT Canine Influenza vaccine today. It is given in a series of two vaccines separated by 2-4 weeks. If you choose to NOT re-booster in 2-4 weeks, your pet will only be protected against H3N2 Canine Influenza strain. The H3N8 strain has been recently detected in Indiana and that is the reason we are introducing this Bivalent vaccine in our Chicagoland pet population.
In a study by Merck, this new Canine Influenza Bivalent vaccine dramatically reduces the severity of the disease in vaccinated dogs when challenged by the virus, but it did not completely eliminate its presentation in vaccinated pets.
There are at least 9 common bacteria and viruses that have been linked to dogs with infectious respiratory disease – so not all coughing dogs have Canine Influenza. Your veterinarian may be able to differentiate the likely cause of your pet’s respiratory illness with PCR testing, if medically indicated.
Be proactive with your pet’s health. Prevention is preferable over treatment for this serious viral disease. If your pet falls into the high risk category for potentially acquiring Canine Influenza, please vaccinate your dog against both strains of Canine Influenza using the new bivalent vaccine now available at AMCOC.