Canine Influenza – Nothing to Sneeze About

Dr. Mark Motichka

Canine influenza (dog flu) continues to get more and more press as there are more and more outbreaks across the US, including the most recent one in Michigan:

Most clients wonder if dog flu is an issue in Colorado, and if so is there anything to do about it. Here is some background to start with:

  • The H3N8 strain originated in horses and spread to dogs (first reported in the US in 2004)
  • The H3N2 strain originated in birds and spread to dogs (first reported in the US in 2015)
  • Colorado has positive cases reported of both H3N8 and H3N2 influenza
  • Thousands of confirmed H3N2 cases across 47 of the 48 contiguous states since 2015 (check out the map below)

Just like in people, the influenza viruses are highly contagious and are easily spread between dogs. The majority of dogs exposed to the virus will become infected because there is very little natural immunity present. The original Chicago outbreak of canine flu in 2015 resulted in more than 1,000 dogs becoming ill and at least 6 reported deaths. The current outbreak in Michigan (July and August 2018) has at least 70 cases of confirmed canine influenza with many more likely sick. Even though most dogs that are exposed will become infected, not all of them will show clinical signs. Clinical signs will range from mild symptoms to more severe illness that can progress to pneumonia and even death. This is what to watch for if your dog becomes infected:

  • Sometimes no clinical signs
  • Cough, runny nose, and/or discharge from eyes
  • Fever, lethargy, and/or decreased appetite

Fortunately, we now have vaccines available to help protect your dog- and we can vaccinate for both strains in the same vaccine! Studies have shown the available vaccines are safe and effective. The vaccines do a very good job of protecting dogs. If they still become infected, vaccinated dogs will experience less severe symptoms, a quicker recovery, and be contagious for a shorter period of time than dogs that have not been vaccinated. As with most health issues we would prefer to prevent disease rather than have to treat it. So, if your dog falls into one of these groups we recommend vaccinating your dog against canine influenza (CIV):

  • Dogs in social settings such as grooming, boarding, dog parks, and dog daycare (local doggie daycare facilities are starting to require CIV vaccination)
  • Dogs that attend a dog show or that are traveling with you (outbreaks in other parts of the country are always changing)
  • If you want to provide some level of protection in case of an outbreak in our area because dogs have no natural immunity to dog flu

Please let us know if you have any additional questions for us regarding canine influenza. Here are some additional resources if you are interested:

To request an appointment for your dog’s Influenza vaccine.