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Canine Influenza Virus
Since 2005 researchers have isolated a novel Canine Influenza Virus (H3N8) that has been causing significant respiratory flu in dogs. While this virus has not been isolated in Maine as of May 2010, it is endemic in states such as New York, Pennsylvania and Colorado and it is a matter of time before dogs in Maine will be exposed. This is a "new" virus to most dogs because their immune system has never come across it; over 50 to 80% of the dogs exposed to this flu will show signs of illness. Primarily this is a very bad cough that does not respond to medical treatment, often lasting weeks. A small percentage of affected dogs will develop pneumonia and need intensive nursing care, even hospitalization, but the mortality rate is very low (1%). Greyhounds have a much higher chance of death caused by this virus due to a genetic issue.
One of the significant problems owners will have is that dogs who are infected will shed the most virus BEFORE they show any clinical signs of being sick. People can carry the virus around from an infected dog on their hands and on their clothes or shoes for at least a day. A vaccine for this flu has been available since 2009. The technology used in this vaccine is not unlike that used to develop human flu vaccines for years and even though it is a "new" vaccine for dogs, the risk of adverse reactions is low. Immunization requires two initial vaccines 2 to 4 weeks apart and yearly boosters after that.
Who should get the vaccine? Dogs who travel out of state or go to facilities where out of state dogs may also be boarded or groomed. Dogs belonging to folks who handle a lot of other dogs (animal health care workers, shelter worker, groomers, etc) should be protected. We offer the vaccine at our clinic and would be happy to discuss your dog's risk with you.