Dog Flu: Predictable and Unpredictable


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In some ways dog flu (canine influenza virus) is unpredictable, and in some ways it’s very predictable. You can learn more by viewing a Facebook Live event I will host, “Heroes Know the Truth About Dog Flu: What’s Real and What’s Not,”  today June 6 at 6 p.m. CDT with Internal Medicine specialist Dr. Robert Armentano and Dr. Jennifer Herring, Director of the Emergency & Critical Care Department at Veterinary Specialty Center in Buffalo Grove, IL.  And HERE is where you can view the event and it will be shared on my Facebook fan page. 

Where will dog flu hit next? That’s unpredictable. What is predictable is that dog flu will continue to spread. New York City was inevitable since dogs are in such close proximity to one another there, and the same is true for parts of California. And both have happened in 2018.  New York City is now experiencing an outbreak.

The strain of dog flu most often seen in the U.S. now is H3N2, arriving first in Chicago in 2015 and it has predictably spread across America. Unless vaccinated, it’s quite predictable that if a dog is exposed for the dog flu, that dog will get the flu since there is no prior immunity to this strain.

Since December 27 of 2017, there were over 500 confirmed H3N2 positives in California and Nevada. And over 100 in New York City since April this year. That’s not to mention over 600 in Illinois, around half that number in Kentucky, and about 200 each in Georgia, Florida and Ohio, and around 100 more in Texas, all according to the diagnostic lab IDEXX. In all, this year, over 2,600 positives for dog flu in America, and a few more in Canada.

(IDEXX mapping)

The problem is that the OVERWHELMING majority of dog owners don’t test their dogs for flu, so the numbers offered are only a drop in the bucket. No one know if that number of over 2,600 positives represents 10 percent or 20 percent or whatever percent of sickened dogs. No one knows, so that’s unpredictable. What’s more, around 20 percent of dogs with the virus don’t actually get sick. However, they still spread the virus to other dogs, remaining just as contagious as sick dogs.

In New York City, the number of dog flu instances appears to be on the rise, that’s predictable given how social dogs are there.

What’s unpredictable is how bad it may get. Increasingly, dogs are being vaccinated which is the only practical means of prevention.

It’s predictable that 80 precent of dogs exposed get sick, and around 20 percent do not. Among that 80 percent some will need hospitalization and two to five percent succumb. It’s unpredictable as to which dogs become very ill; they are not necessarily older dogs with other conditions, often they are young and healthy before getting the flu.

The vaccine does require two injections for maximum effectiveness. One injection followed by a booster shot several weeks later. So, even vaccinating today could be too late if a dog is exposed to the virus, unless the booster has also been given. So when vacationing with your dog, or you are vacationing and boarding your dog – think at least four weeks in advance. Another problem is that some who vaccinated last year have forgotten or are unaware that just like the vaccine for the human flu, the dog flu vaccine is annual.

I will also host The Heroes for Healthy Pets™ Infectious Disease Management Certification Program tonight to further educate veterinary and pet professionals on the risks of infectious diseases, following a 6:30 dinner, the program is 7 to 9 p.m. at the Veterinary Specialty Center, 1515 Busch Parkway, Buffalo Grove, IL

The program provides best practices for preventative care including strategic vaccination, and cleaning and disinfection protocols to help to educate pet professionals on the risks of infectious diseases and how to maintain disease-free facilities to keep pets healthy.

Module One: Understanding Infectious Disease
Robert Armentano, DVM, DACVIM

Module Two: Infectious Disease Control 
Jennifer Herring, DVM, MS, DACVECC

The program is free and provides two hours of RACE approved continuing education credit for veterinary professionals, 2 hours PACCC approved continuing education credits for pet professionals, and 2 hours of continuing education credits for pet sitters.