Canine Influenza & What You Need To Know

By now, you may have heard about the Canine Influenza (flu) outbreak occurring in Northern Florida and Georgia over the past several weeks. We wanted to take this opportunity to tell you a little about this disease as well as a few changes that we will be making at our hospital to help stop its spread.  The canine influenza virus was recently found in a dog here in Palm Beach County.  Apparently, a patient was infected during a recent dog event in Georgia, came home and then spread the infection to their housemate.  This patient was seen at one of our local emergency hospitals where the disease was confirmed via viral testing.  This means that any number of dogs in our community could now be exposed and possibly infected. Currently, we have 100 positive flu cases in the state of Florida; the most in any state so far.

There are two common strains of the canine flu, H3N8 and H3N2. The current strain of concern is H3N2 which is also contagious to cats. Canine flu is spread very similarly to human flu in that it can be transmitted on objects such as clothing, toys, and bedding for up to 24 hours. It also has airborne transmission up to 20 feet. Please know that this virus is easy to kill; normal washing of affected bedding and clothing, along with general cleaning with disinfectants will be effective. As with the human flu, you can expect pets that are affected to experience some or all of the following symptoms: runny nose, coughing, sneezing, lethargy, or lack of appetite.

If you suspect your dog may have been infected and showing symptoms of the canine flu, please do not bring them into the hospital without first calling and getting instruction from the hospital staff.  This includes our area emergency rooms or other veterinary hospitals.   Keeping your dog isolated from other dogs is the best way to stop the spread of this disease.  If your dog is seriously ill, they may need to be hospitalized for treatment and proper facilities and isolation protocols need to be enacted to try and minimize the risk to others in the hospital or emergency room.

We have been in contact with the University Of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control, and we are following the recommendations that they have set forth for this current issue. We are recommending that all dogs that are at risk for contracting the flu be vaccinated These risk factors include pets that frequent dog parks, dog beaches, grooming salons, boarding kennels, daycare facilities, training facilities, or any other areas where a large number of dogs congregate with their owners. If your pet does not leave the yard or does not go anywhere outside of your home, then vaccination might not be for them; we are here to help guide you in this decision.

Please know that we are following this outbreak’s developments closely, as we wish to have the most up-to-date information in order to keep our patients happy and healthy. With that in mind, we have decided to institute a few changes within our hospital to better serve our community in helping to prevent this disease from spreading even more. As of August 1, 2017, we will be requiring the flu vaccine series to be started in all pets that are staying at our facility. These include boarding, grooming, non-anesthetic dentals, admissions to the hospital for surgery or any medical procedure that requires your dog to stay with us. We know this is a change to our policy and we will work very hard to make this transition smooth for both our facility and your families. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact our office directly.

We are currently vaccinating our patients with a bivalent killed vaccine that contains both strains of the canine flu (H3N2 & H3N8). The vaccine is a two-part inoculation, with the second booster occurring 3 weeks after the first. Immunity to the disease does not occur until 2 weeks after the 2nd vaccination. Even though the flu can spread between both dogs and cats, there is no current vaccination for cats.

We will continue to do our very best to keep families informed as developments happen. Thank you for both your trust and assistance as we play our role in curbing the spread of this illness.