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By Sage Willis, CVT
Published: September 26, 2012

Canine influenza (dog flu) is a highly contagious virus spread among dogs. The first US case was reported in 2003, and studies suggest that virtually every dog exposed to the virus will become infected unless they are vaccinated or have already had the illness and recovered. Approximately 80-90% of dogs exposed to canine influenza will develop symptoms of infection.

Just as in human flu infections, illness severity varies from dog to dog. It is thought that greyhounds are more susceptible and may have a higher rate of death. Mild signs include lethargy, decreased appetite, and cough. Even generally healthy dogs may become severely ill with a high fever, increased respiratory rate and pneumonia.

Treatment for severe cases includes hospitalization, intravenous fluids, antibiotics and nutritional support. Dogs may pick up the virus from contact with infected surfaces such as toys and food bowls, and other infected dogs. Dogs that may come in contact with other dogs on walks, at pet stores, grooming facilities and dogs that go to daycare and boarding facilities are at the highest risk. As we head into the holiday season, when furry family members are often boarded it is extremely important that you consider vaccinating your dog with the canine influenza vaccine.

The first time your dog is vaccinated, the vaccine will be given once and repeated 2-3 weeks later. Thereafter, the vaccine should be given yearly. Vaccination will protect dogs by significantly decreasing symptoms of infection and risk of flu associated complications. At this time, there have been no reports of human infection with the canine influenza strain (H3N8).

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