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Does Your Dog Need a Flu Shot this Winter?

The news is full of stories about the H1N1 virus and the importance of being vaccinated. What dog owners may not know, though, is that the family pet may also need a flu shot this year.

There is a new type of flu circulating that infects dogs. Canine influenza virus, also know as dog flu, has now been confirmed in 30 states.

CIV is a H3N8 virus that for many years infected only horses. It was first recorded in dogs in 2004. Like most flu viruses, it is an airborne illness that is easily transmitted.

The biggest concern about CIV is that, because this is a new strain of virus for dogs, they have no natural immunity. As a result, virtually every dog exposed becomes infected. Making matters worse, about 20% of infected dogs do not develop symptoms, but become “silent carriers”, spreading it to other days with whom they have contact.

Most infected dogs develop mild to moderate illness and recover fully in a few weeks. Symptoms include runny nose, low-grade fever and a cough. In a small percentage of dogs, the illness has progressed to pneumonia, with high-grade fever and respiratory distress, requiring hospitalization.

A vaccine for CIV was approved by the US Department of Agriculture in late May. It is gradually being distributed across the US, although it is not yet universally available. 

Best Friends Pet Care strongly recommends that dogs receive the new vaccine if they will boarding or participating in doggy day camp because the virus is so easily spread and there is no effective way to pre-screen dogs for the illness.

Even if you aren’t planning on boarding your dog, you should consider vaccination if your pet spends any time with other canines. Dogs can contract it through exposure virtually anywhere they encounter other dogs – not just at the boarding/grooming facility or the animal hospital, but also at the dog park, at dog shows and even on a walk around the neighborhood. In fact, direct contact with another dog isn’t needed since the virus can remain alive on environmental surfaces for up to 48 hours.

If your dog develops symptoms of the flu after being around other dogs, you should take him to your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. Be sure that your vet considers canine influenza since the treatment differs from that for ordinary canine cough.

For more about canine influenza and how to protect your dog, visit the CDC Website or the website of the American Veterinary Medical Association.