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Canine Influenza

The Influenza virus first was identified in dogs in 2004. It was discovered in a dog racing facility in Florida when dogs became sick with severe respiratory disease and many of them died. There have been several outbreaks up and down the East Coast since then, but none as severe as the recent outbreak in the Midwest.

Influenza has the potential to be a very severe disease in any dog. While you and I have come in contact with many flu viruses in our lifetime and therefore, have some natural immunity, dogs have never been exposed to the virus in their history until 2004. Therefore, they have no natural immunity. This means that an exposed pet will contract the disease. The symptoms are primarily respiratory, with the pet running a high fever. It can easily lead to pneumonia that can be fatal.

There is a vaccine for the Influenza virus in dogs that works reasonably well against the H3N8 strain but, much like the human vaccine, it is nowhere near 100% protective. The recent strain in the Midwest is the H3N2 strain, so while the available vaccine may confer some cross protection, it will not work as well on this particular strain. The best way to prevent the disease is to keep dogs away from crowded facilities where many dogs congregate such as groomers, dog parks and boarding facilities. While the virus has not been confirmed in North Carolina at this point, we will be very watchful for it.

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