Canine Flu Vaccine

Most dog owners do not realize how dangerous the Canine Flu virus is, until their dogs are struck down by it, like Nicole Kirk’s black Labrador, Moose.

Even though most dogs who contract the canine flu, recover fairly quickly, Moose didn’t. He ended up in the veterinarian hospital for about a week on an IV, being pumped full of antibiotics, when the flu turned into pneumonia.

However, Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health, a company that produces medications for animals, has devised a flu vaccine. The vaccine was conditionally licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in May. It is designed to be given to dogs and puppies that are over the age of 6 weeks via two injections, followed by an annual booster. The company is hoping that the USDA will grant them full licensure soon, pending further studies.

During the initial testing phase, 746 dogs from 30 different breeds, varying in age from 6 weeks to 10 years, were used as guinea pigs for the vaccine. Intervet stated that there were no side effects from the vaccine at all.

The Canine Influenza Virus was first identified in 2004 by veterinarian, Dr. Cynda Crawford, a clinical assistant professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville, along with the veterinarian, Dr. Edward Dubovi from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University.

Dr. Crawford explains the vaccine:

“It’s a ‘lifestyle vaccine’ for dogs who are in communal places such as dog parks, day care, shows, boarding kennels, spas. Dogs who stay at home and just walk around the block are not at risk. Before 2004, it was thought that dogs were not susceptible to the influenza virus. Then we saw it that year among racing greyhounds.”

The Canine Influenza Virus, also known as H3N8, is believed to have mutated from the equine virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There have been thousands of Canine Influenza Virus cases since 2004 that have all been confirmed by a laboratory. These cases have cropped up in 30 different states, including the District of Columbia. Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania are the states that have seen the most cases.

Dr. Joshua Portner of NorthStar VETS in Clarksburg, N.J., Moose’s vet, claimed that his veterinary clinic saw between 10 and 20 dogs, who had the Canine Influenza Virus, between May and June. Unfortunately, there were probably many more as some dog owners decided not to have laboratory tests run to confirm that their dog did indeed have the Canine Influenza Virus.

Luckily, none of these affected dogs died from the virus.

“Most of them had been with many other dogs,” explained Portner, who took two different blood tests to confirm the presence of the virus: one whilst the dog was sick and again approximately two or three weeks later.

However, even though New Jersey was one of the hardest hit states in the USA, Dr. Portner is not recommending the Canine Influenza Virus Vaccine to all of his canine patients.

“It’s still new, so we don’t yet know about all the side effects, and most dogs recover from it if they do get it. So I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for every dog,” he said.

Dr. Crawford explains that this canine virus is very similar to the human flu virus:

“The symptoms are similar: coughing, runny nose, sneezing. And it spreads the same way, through direct contact.”

The inadvertent spreading of the virus can be stopped by simply properly washing hands, clothes, dog bowls and toys on a regular basis.

“While sick, the dog should be quarantined,” Dr. Crawford suggests. “You should call your vet, but you have to let it run its course, just like when you have the flu.”

The CDC states that only 10 – 20% of Canine Influenza affected dogs end up with pneumonia, and of this amount 5 – 8% of dogs actually die.

The Canine Influenza Virus is not a seasonal virus like the human flu. Much like Kennel Cough, dogs who are routinely placed in a day care, day camp, boarding facility, or regularly visit a dog park can contract the virus at any time.

This particular vaccine has a “killed,” rather than a “live” virus and costs about the same as the canine distemper vaccine.

There is no proof at this time that humans or other animals can contract the Canine Influenza Virus, nor is it linked to the swine flu.

Kimberly May, a spokeswoman for the American Veterinary Medical Association, believes that the new vaccine is very beneficial.

“The vaccine is a critical step in getting canine flu under control. It isn’t for every dog, but dog owners should talk to their vets about whether or not their dogs are at risk.”

Photo Link: Steven Fernandez

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