You possibly have read in the newspaper or heard over the airwaves about the canine influenza virus (dog flu). Hopefully, this information about canine influenza will be helpful. Much of the information you have probably heard or read originates directly or indirectly from the manufacturer of the influenza vaccine.
The canine influenza virus, H3N8, does exist and is a “cousin” to the human influenza virus. It is important to note, however, that at this stage, there is no reported interspecies crossover of the different viruses, although potential cross infection is being investigated. The canine influenza virus was first discovered in Florida in racing Greyhound kennels. In the Greyhound dog, the virus seems to have more serious consequences than in the general canine population.
At this point, the virus seems to mostly be worrisome for young puppies that are coming out of puppy mills or other crowded, high stress situations. There is also some potential of adverse health concerns in debilitated, geriatric dogs that are put in similar stressful situations.
The bottom line is that the typical “house dog” has very limited potential exposure and, if infected, appears to have mild symptoms.
The canine flu vaccine is available. For several reasons it is not currently widely administered. The duration of immunity of the vaccine has not been well established, i.e. may protect for one month or may protect for one year. No national veterinary organizations currently are recommending the influenza vaccine as a “core” vaccine, but as a adjunct for special situations..
We are seeing that some kennels and puppy classes are now starting to require the vaccine. Therefore, we do have the vaccine available at Nelson Animal Hospital, and would be happy to discuss any concerns or questions you would have as to whether your canine pet should be vaccinated.
We feel the vaccine is safe to administer and we have seen no adverse effects in the limited number of pets we have vaccinated, but, as stated earlier, we feel it should only be used in certain situations, if at all.