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Posted on: February 1, 2018

Information on California Dog Flu Outbreak

Canine Influenza Virus (dog flu) has been confirmed in 6 dogs in the Bay Area in the first days of the New Year, according to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, which monitors and reports on the dog flu across the United States.  California is just one of several states reporting active cases of dog flu this year. Unlike the human flu, dog flu is not found everywhere in the US, rather, in intense geographically specific flare-ups.

Unlike human flu, canine influenza doesn’t follow a seasonal pattern; dogs can get sick and spread the virus year-round. Symptoms of canine and human flu are similar and can include a fever, cough, runny nose, reduced appetite and low energy. Most dogs who get canine influenza recover in a few weeks. Some cases are severe with a higher fever and signs of pneumonia. Less than 10% of dogs who become sick with canine influenza die, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, but dogs that are very young, very old or have underlying health conditions are at increased risk.

Dog flu is a relatively new disease and can be caused by two different canine influenza virus strains, H3N8 and H3N2. Both strains of dog flu virus cause respiratory disease in dogs. One or both strains have been found in 46 States.  Affected dogs may develop coughing, nasal discharge, fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite. The signs of infection are similar to those of other respiratory diseases in dogs like kennel cough. With proper medical attention, most dogs will recover.

Dog flu is highly contagious, so visiting places where dogs socialize or congregate, such as doggie day cares, dog parks, groomers, boarding facilities, and dog shows place dogs at higher risk. Making the situation even more difficult to control is that dogs can spread the virus before obvious signs of illness appear.  The best way to protect your dog from dog flu is through vaccination. Fortunately, there is a vaccine now available for both dog flu strains. The initial vaccination requires two doses, given 2 to 4 weeks apart. Thereafter, an annual booster is recommended for continued protection.  Contact your veterinarian to determine if your pet is at risk and what vaccination protocols are available to you for your dog.

Sean Hawkins, CAWA

Executive Director | Santa Maria Valley Humane Society

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