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Apr 20 2015

Dog Flu & What You Need to Know

Despite all the recent press, canine influenza (dog flu) is not a new disease. We know from prior outbreaks that a lot of dogs are exposed, a few get sick and a very few succumb. There is a vaccine available, but it was derived from a prior outbreak. The preliminary information is that the Chicago outbreak may be associated with one of three possible strains of flu. It is unknown if the vaccine offers any protection. We know from the human side how hard it is to match a vaccine against the rapidly changing flu virus.

Testing for dog flu can be done in two ways: we can isolate virus from fresh cases (the first day or two after they get sick)—after that window, they will test negative. We can also check titers a couple weeks after they get sick—they are generally healthy by then, so nobody cares that much.

Treatment is similar to most of the other causes of dog respiratory disease (bordatella (kennel cough), parainfluenza virus, canine distemper, a coronavirus and several other opportunists). Routine vaccination will prevent almost all canine distemper and parainfluenza virus disease. At risk dogs should also be vaccinated for kennel cough (show dogs, working dogs around other dogs regularly going to doggy day care, boarding kennels, dog school or groomers and dog parks).

Sick dogs should be evaluated, and may require medication or diagnostics. The disease is real but not a cause for panic. We have not tested dogs for influenza during this outbreak, nor have we seen increased numbers of sick dogs.

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