Canine Influenza cases confirmed in Massachusetts and Rhode Island
Canine influenza is a relatively new emerging infectious disease caused by a ”flu” virus. In dogs, a highly contagious strain of the influenza A virus known as H3N8 causes respiratory illness. Other strains of the influenza A virus are responsible for causing infections in birds, horses, pigs, and people.
We don’t want you to be alarmed, but we do want you to be informed. Just like human flu, canine influenza is highly contagious. In fact, unless a dog has already had the illness and recovered, virtually every dog exposed to the virus will become infected. This is because the virus is relatively new, and dogs have no natural immunity to it. While 100% of dogs are susceptible to influenza infection, about 80% of infected dogs will show varying degrees and signs of infection. Symptoms include coughing and sneezing that can lead to pneumonia and in rare instances even death if not treated. Brachycephalic breeds (those that have a shortened broad face with smaller nostrils such as Pugs, Bulldogs, Pekingese, Shi-Tzu, etc.) and those with underlying health concerns are at a higher risk for illness.
We began recommending the Canine Influenza Vaccine as soon as it became available in 2009. Like human flu vaccine, the Canine Influenza Vaccine may not completely prevent pets from infection, but if symptoms appear, the severity of illness is greatly reduced. Therefore, we recommend the vaccination for all dogs.