Canine Flu Outbreak Update 1/21/16
Things are looking up for our canine companions. As of late November, two companies had a vaccine available for the H3N2 flu strain (the new Chicago flu strain that was a gift from Korea).
As many will remember, the flu hit last spring with a vengeance, striking fear into the hearts of pet owners; keeping them out of doggy day care, dog parks, groomers, and even making people fearful of bringing their pet to the veterinarian. The flu caused upper respiratory symptoms. Some dogs just experienced fever, loss of appetite and an annoying cough that lasted 1-3 weeks. Others developed severe pneumonia and death occurred in a little less than 10% of the cases.
While the severity of the outbreak has lessened, it’s not gone. There were over 50 confirmed cases in Illinois in December (mostly Chicagoland area) and we suspect there were many more since many patients are being treated and not tested. The flu has spread dramatically through the United States, now being diagnosed as far west as California, east to New York, and south to Texas.
The flu is particularly virulent, since many of the cases are shedding the virus BEFORE they are even sick. We must maintain vigilance to keep our dogs safe. There have been a few cases of the flu in cats, but these are rare, and as yet, there is no vaccine available for cats.
Here are some facts about the H3N2 Flu Vaccine;
It was fast-tracked through the FDA since it was only a small tweak to the existing H3N8 vaccine.
If your dog received the flu vaccine prior to November of 2015, it was for the H3N8 strain and most evidence has showed this vaccine will have minimal if any protection against the H3N2 strain.
SAFETY: We expect the vaccine to have the same safety regimen as the existing H3N8 vaccine, so therefore very low risk of reaction to the vaccine. The FDA classifies the vaccine as “a reasonable expectation of efficacy and safety”, which is not the most resounding endorsement. Since it’s introduction in November, we have been using the vaccine aggressively in our practice (over 250 doses) and have had only one dog report a small amount of vomiting the next day.
ANY DOG WITH EVEN CASUAL EXPOSURE TO OTHER DOGS SHOULD BE PROTECTED AGAINST THE FLU.
The flu vaccine will need to be given twice, 2-3 weeks apart, and the protective immunity will not be dependable until 2 weeks after the booster. ALLOW A MINIMUM OF ONE MONTH TO GET YOUR DOG VACCINATED AND PROTECTED.
Many infectious disease specialists recommend vaccinating for the H3N2 AND the H3N8 strains. As of now, we are only recommending the H3N2 strain at Mill Creek Animal Clinic. As more research comes available, that recommendation may change.
Canine Flu Outbreak Update 5/22/15
From the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association website:
“The crisis is not over; however, the protocols enacted during the outbreak have helped to
slow the development of new cases. It is imperative to continue to embrace these same
measures to prevent a relapse. It is important to remember that Canine Influenza Virus is
a new disease in the canine world, and much like the human influenza, there are multiple
strains. This is illustrated by the fact that the recent outbreak has been attributed to the
H3N2 strain and not the H3N8 strain in the current vaccine. While new vaccines are
forthcoming, all unexposed dogs are at risk. Those that did not contract the disease during
the initial outbreak are still very susceptible. If we relax the protocols now, before the
crisis is fully past, we risk a similar rise in cases that we experienced during the
beginning of the outbreak. It is the current recommendation of the Chicago Veterinary
Medical Association to continue to exercise protective measure to prevent exposure and
spread of the disease.”
Additional links: Chicago VMA Flu information Dog Influenza.com
Canine Flu Outbreak Update 4/27/15
As of 4/27/15, it does not appear that there is a dramatic decrease in the number of new
cases continuing to be diagnosed. Blum Animal Hospital, in downtown Chicago, reports
seeing 35 new cases since 4/17. Here at Mill Creek, we have only had a few suspected
cases, none have been confirmed flu as yet. The flu is in the suburbs as well, the first
case confirmed was in Darien. Flu has been found in Oak Lawn, Orland, Burr Ridge…all
the communities surrounding us.
We continue to be extremely proactive with preventative measures here at the clinic.
Whenever possible, we will see all coughing dogs outside at your car. If needed we will
escort them into the isolation rooms from a rear entrance.
PLEASE- DO NOT BRING YOUR COUGHING DOG INTO THE WAITING
ROOM AND PLACE ALL OF OUR PATIENTS AT RISK! Call when you arrive
and we will instruct you how to proceed. These preventative measures are imperative to
stopping the spread of the virus and keeping our patients safe. Employees and Doctors
will be wearing disposable protective wear and gloves to maintain a safe and clean environment.
Symptoms: Coughing and congestion are the most prominent symptom. Lethargy,
fever, and lack of appetite come along about the same time. The incubation period can be
as short as 2 days. Symptoms are lasting 5-7 days, but the cough can last up to 2 weeks.
Shedding of the virus can be as long 10-14 days from the onset of symptoms.
Testing: We will be testing coughing dogs for the flu, as well as other respiratory viral
infections. This is usually accomplished with a nasal swab
Treatment: Treatment may be different for each patient depending on their symptoms.
Prevention of dehydration is key…plenty of fluids! Most pets need administration of
fluids either IV or under the skin. Antibiotics are being dispensed in many cases to
prevent progression into bacterial pneumonia. Cough suppressants may be administered
as well. Nebulization may be required in some cases as well.
Check with your boarding or day care facility, as well as your groomer to find out what precautions they are taking to prevent the spread of flu. A facility that requires the flu vaccine to be complete 2 weeks before the arrival at the facility would be ideal. Since the H3N2 vaccine is still new, this may take a while before the vaccine is considered a standard requirement.
Cats: The virus has been reported to cause congestion in cats in South Korea. This has
not been reported yet in the US. Healthy pets within your household who have minimal
exposure to other dogs should not be a risk to each other.