Dog Flu: Not Gone and Not Forgetten
So where’s the dreaded dog flu?
Well, that depends on where you live. In some communities, it’s hasn’t appeared, at least not yet. In Chicago – Ground Zero from the H3N2 strain – it’s still lurking, and remains to stubbornly hang on in the City’s Animal Care & Control facility. In other cities it does exist, but only rarely pops up.
My big concern is summer travel, as dogs have been really adept at relocating the flu to other communities, all over the country.
Definitely for dogs traveling and also for dogs not traveling, the vaccine is a good idea. Let me explain:
For dogs that travel, along the way (if they are at all social), they may be exposed to the dog flu. It’s important to understand around a quarter of the dogs contagious with flu have no symptoms but effectively spread the virus. Your dog may be a carrier, or another dog might be – and the owners can never know it.
For dogs, staying home and being kenneled, they definitely need the dog flu vaccine. Do you know who the dog is being kenneled with? Even IF there’s no dog flu where you live, the concern is that a dog from a place where there is dog flu will be boarded there. Kennels (and also animal shelters and dog day cares) are places where flu can spontaneously occur and then can settle in for a long stay.
I won’t be surprised if increasingly kennels (and dog day cares) will mandate the dog flu vaccine for all pets in their care. It’s probably a good idea, at least for most places.
Having said that, the vaccine isn’t perfect, like the vaccine for human flus – it may or not prevent the flu all together, but even if the dog gets the flu the pup won’t get as sick.
After the initial injection, a second shot is required about three weeks later. So, think this fact through before the day you leave for the vacation – there’s obviously no time then for the booster. The dog flu vaccine requires this advance planning.
So, how many dogs have been sickened by the dog flu?
A coalition of companies that test for this newest strain of canine influenza virus, called the Canine Influenza Virus Surveillance Network, indicated almost 1,700 dogs were tested positive for H3N2 (from about a year ago through this February). There’s little doubt that number was low in the first place (due undiagnosed dogs and dogs that were diagnosed but not officially tested to confirm), but now exceeds over 2,00 and may be – in the real world – over twice that many.
Unless your dog has been previously infected with this flu strain (which arrived in the U.S. last year from Southeast Asia), once exposed nearly all dogs become ill.
While the bug isn’t likely to be fatal, it around five percent succumb to the flu, likely the result of pneumonia. That five percent is only an educated guess based on various experts’ views. Clearly the percent of dogs that die in a single digit percentage. However, it could mean over 100 dogs die a year. These dogs are not typically elderly dogs on their last legs either. While 100 may not be considered significant percentage among the total number of sickened dogs – I suggest you may disagree if it is your dog.
Also the flu virus itself can’t be treated. Veterinarians treat symptoms to help dogs to feel better, and with hopes that the dog won’t worsen. Dog who do worsen may get pneumonia, and require hospital care for supportive care– and that does get expensive.
The canine influenza virus itself isn’t’ seasonal (unlike many human flu viruses), but due to travel – the hot season begins around now…with an increase of people traveling or boarding their pets, do flu is expected to rise.
The old adage about prevention happens to be true, it’s the most intelligent and humane option.