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By Cathy Carter
Published: January 12, 2010

Recently, we’ve been getting questions from some of our pet owners about a new dog virus called canine influenza. They were concerned about stories they had seen or read in the news about dog flu outbreaks. In answering their questions, we realized that all of our dog owners may have similar questions and concerns. So we’re writing to tell you about canine influenza, what puts dogs at risk, and what can be done to protect them.

Canine influenza is a respiratory disease that can cause coughing, runny nose, watery eyes, loss of energy, and/or loss of appetite. The signs of infection are similar to those of other respiratory diseases in dogs, but the coughing caused by canine influenza can last for several weeks. With proper care, most dogs generally recover. However, canine influenza can lead to more severe or even life-threatening infections, such as pneumonia, and has been fatal in up to 8% of cases. Because canine influenza is caused by a relatively new virus, dogs have no natural immunity to it. And since it’s highly contagious, visiting places where dogs congregate, such as kennels, doggie daycares, dog parks, or groomers, puts dogs at higher risk for catching this new virus. Making things more difficult is the fact that dogs can spread the virus before the coughing and other signs of sickness appear.

The best way to protect your dog from canine influenza is through vaccination. Fortunately, the USDA has issued the first conditional license for a vaccine that aids in the control of disease caused by canine influenza. A conditional license is issued to meet a special circumstance such as the emergence of a new virus for which there is no existing vaccine. Like the human flu vaccine, the new canine influenza vaccine doesn’t completely prevent infection, but it can dramatically reduce the severity of the disease. The vaccine also significantly reduces the amount of virus that dogs shed, minimizing spread to other dogs—so it’s the ideal way to protect our local canine community as well.

We recommend vaccinating dogs against canine influenza and have vaccine available. Please call us to discuss any questions you might have or to set up an appointment. To give your dog the most complete protection, the initial vaccination requires two doses of vaccine given 2 to 4 weeks apart, followed by a single booster dose given annually.

We are also always available to answer any questions you may have.

If you’d like to read more about canine influenza, please visit www.doginfluenza.com

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