Reports are coming in that canine influenza has begun to resurface in the Chicago area. Here are the things you need to know:
Last spring there was an epidemic of canine influenza which began in the Chicago area and spread to many areas throughout the country. In Chicago a number of shelters, dog parks, doggy daycares, and boarding facilities had to be closed due the contagious nature of this disease.
There are two strains of canine influenza: H3N8 and H3N2. The predominant strain in the epidemic last spring was H3N2, but both are present in the Chicago area. These strains of flu can cause anything from a mild cough to severe, potentially fatal, pneumonia. Signs of illness typically develop 2-3 days after exposure to the virus, and sick dogs can remain contagious for at least three weeks.
Last year a vaccine was available for only one of the strains: H3N8. As of this week a second vaccine is available for the epidemic causing H3N2 strain. So, what dogs need to be vaccinated? Any dog that is social should be vaccinated. In other words, any dog who will have contact with other dogs outside of his household should be vaccinated, including those that go to groomers, boarding, dog parks, doggy daycare, or even just encounter other dogs (or their nasal secretions) on their daily walks.
The cost of each vaccine is $32. Unfortunately there is not a single vaccine which covers both strains. We will, however, vaccinate with both strains at the same time for a cost of $48, which is a 25% savings. Dogs that have never been vaccinated for influenza should be boostered 2-3 weeks after the initial vaccine. Those that were vaccinated last year (for H3N8) would only need a single annual booster.
We recommend getting your dog vaccinated now, before the flu season really picks up, both to head off any risk and to make sure that you can get the vaccine while it is still available. Last year there was a shortage of vaccine during the height of the epidemic.