It's Flu Season for People And Dogs
It's flu season for people, as well as for their dogs. It turns out that dogs have their own brand of flu. The canine influenza virus (CIV) is fairly new, discovered in 2004. And just as there's a flu shot for people, now there's also a flu shot for dogs.
Canine influenza "is not something you want to mess with," says Dr.
"The dog was coughing pretty bad; a deeper cough than what we sometimes see with bordetella (kennel cough). It seemed pretty clear the dog had pneumonia," Webb recalled. Testing determined the pneumonia was due to CIV, which sometimes develops into pneumonia. With aggressive treatment, this dog will recover -- but some don't.
CIV is extremely infectious. Since Webb has a kennel at her facility, she began to request the CIV vaccine for all the dogs boarded there, as well as social dogs of clients that come in regular contact with other dogs.
"I'm not one for recommending all vaccines," Webb says. "But clearly the canine flu is here, and what if yours is the dog who gets the flu because I didn't recommend vaccination? About 10 percent of the dogs do die."
Of equal concern to Webb are the 20 percent of dogs with the virus who never develop symptoms but are still infectious -- and can spread flu in the community.
The CIV vaccine isn't necessarily a magic bullet. It often prevents dogs from getting the flu, but not always. Sometimes it only lessens symptoms. But that's welcome since the symptoms can be pretty severe. New research just published in the journal "Veterinary Microbiology" suggests there may be lung lesions in dogs with CIV who aren't displaying symptoms of pneumonia.
CIV now occurs in sporadic hot spot 30 states, and is considered entrenched in five more:
"No question, if you're traveling, ask your veterinarian about CIV," says Dr.
Shelters have their own problems. The flu has hit several facilities. "It's a pretty big deal," Moyer says, "Not only for the shelter, but finding all the recently adopted dogs that are potentially spreading the virus."
Despite the fact that CIV hasn't spread as fast as some predicted, Moyer says it's likely that within a few years all 48 contiguous states will have experienced cases of CIV. There are two key points to keep in mind: If CIV is already common where you live, and your dog is social, consider vaccination. If CIV really hasn't hit yet, Moyer says it's just a matter of time. The question then becomes, how proactive do you want to be?
Webb encourages clients to be proactive, and vaccinate, even though there's only one known substantiated case in her area.
Coincidentally, the day I interviewed Webb, a dog came into her clinic with symptoms consistent with CIV. The dog didn't reside in the community, but was passing through; the owner felt she needed to see a vet because the dog was so sick.
"Canine flu is here, and either we respond now, or wait until more dogs are affected -- some seriously -- and then respond," says Webb. "I think it's my responsibility not to wait."
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