Dog Flu Update


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Canada can blame the U.S. for various issues, and now there’s one more as the canine influenza virus or dog flu has now been identified in a dog in Calgary, Alberta according to Dr. Scott Weese, Worms and Germs blog. It is suspected to have been acquired from dogs that participated in a dog show in the U.S. near the end of September.

As expected, H3N2 canine flu is the cause (not H5N1 avian influenza, which has been detected in a number of poultry flocks in Alberta since September). Unfortunately, the dog died. According to Dr. Weese, it was a higher-risk dog for more serious disease or complications because the dog that succumbed was a brachycephalic breed, though Dr. Weese did not identify the breed or the dog’s age. Brachycephalic breeds, with limited airways, include the French Bulldog, Bulldog, Pug, Pekingese and many others.

The canine H3N2 influenza A strain has been present in the US since 2015, though over the past few years little in the way of outbreaks. The other dog flu strain is H3N8.

The dog flu virus is quite contagious to unvaccinated dogs. Dr. Weese notes that are reports of other dogs with flu-like symptoms in Calgary, Alberta and other cities. Of course, there are other causes of respiratory disease in dogs as well which appear similar to dog flu. Unless dogs are tested it’s impossible to tell exactly why the dogs are sneezing and wheezing.

Takeaways from this story are that dog flu must still be circulating in the U.S. and now in at least some places in Canada. And, although rare, dogs can die of dog flu. If dog flu exists at all in your community, vaccinating against flu is certainly worth discussing with your veterinarian.

Routinely veterinarians suggest vaccinating against kennel cough (Bordetella). Kennel cough is totally uncomfortable, the analogy might be to a human cold because it is very unlikely to cause hospitalization, let alone death. Dog flu is more like the human flu (though humans do not get dog flu) in that the signs might be more severe, and hospitalization is possible, and there is even a (small) chance of death. While vaccinating against kennel cough makes sense, vaccinating against dog flu may make even more sense.  Pairing up for protection means vaccinating against both Bordetella (which today veterinarians understand is a complex of respiratory diseases, known as CIRDC (canine infectious respiratory disease complex) as well as for the dog flu, particularly if you plan to board your dog this holiday season.