Ask a Vet: What’s new with the dog flu?

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Today’s “Ask a Vet” question is answered by Dr. Adam Scott, Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center and Urgent Care, 2000 Bishop Dr., San Ramon.

Q. Earlier this year, dog owners were being encouraged to have their pets vaccinated against the dog flu. Is the vaccine still needed or has flu season passed?

A. Canine influenza, or dog flu, is a highly contagious respiratory disease in dogs caused
by a pathogenic virus. There are two strains of influenza viruses known to infect dogs,
H3N8 virus and H3N2 virus.

At the beginning of 2018, the Bay Area had an outbreak of the H3N2 influenza virus, which has since infected many dogs. This outbreak was centered in the South Bay; however, due to its highly contagious nature and potential for rapid spread, it has become an important topic throughout the Bay Area.

Dog flu is transmitted by close contact between dogs, especially in restricted
environments such as shelters, boarding facilities, dog shows and dog day care
centers. Any dog can be susceptible regardless of age or breed.

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Unlike with the human variant, there is no season for canine influenza, and infections can occur any time of the year.

Fortunately, the canine flu has never been shown to be transmittable from dogs to humans. Conversely, cats can contract the virus, but develop relatively mild
cases compared to dogs.

Signs of canine influenza infection start just 2 to 3 days after exposure and include cough, eye and nasal discharge, lethargy and decreased appetite. Most dogs recover within 2 to 3 weeks, however, some dogs may develop secondary bacterial infections that can lead to more severe illness and pneumonia.

If you suspect your dog has contracted canine flu, your veterinarian can perform a test to confirm an infection.

Vaccines are available for both H3N8 and H3N2 canine influenza viruses, and the vaccinations can reduce the risk of a dog contracting canine influenza. Vaccination might not completely prevent an infection, but it can reduce the severity and duration of the
illness.

If your dog visits high risk environments, they should be considered for the
vaccine.

Initially, two doses of the vaccine are given 2 to 4 weeks apart. After the initial series, the vaccine is administered once per year.

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