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Should You Get Your Dog Vaccinated for Canine Influenza Virus?

Canine Influenza Virus - Anchor Animal Hospital, Dartmouth, MACanine Influenza Virus H3N8 or CIV, is a respiratory disease that is highly infections and is considered to be a type of kennel cough. Because there are different types of kennel cough, just because your dog has been vaccinated for one, does not mean that he is protected from CIV, as this is a separate vaccination. Veterinary care in Southeastern Massachusetts has taken the position that only dogs who are at-risk should be vaccinated at this time.

First identified in 2004, Canine Influenza Virus first affected Greyhound dogs in Florida. It has been found in 38 states, however the total number of cases representing affected dogs remains small. Currently Denver, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Texas, suburban New York and Florida have seen the most cases of CIV and there currently is no data supporting its spread outside of the country.

What Dogs are Considered At-Risk?

Dogs that are considered to be at-risk include dogs that are housed closely together, such as the racing Greyhounds in Florida or dogs that live or spend a good deal of time in a kennel. It is most often found in facilities that have a lot of traffic, with dogs coming in and out, such as a boarding kennel or other type of facility. This includes facilities and situations, such as dog parks, pet stores, veterinary clinics, doggy daycare centers and older dogs with compromised immune systems. However, some studies have shown that the virus can be deactivated by common disinfectants, such as bleach or alcohol.

Only dogs who are deemed to be at-risk should be vaccinated. Your dog’s overall health, age and likelihood of exposure should be taken into consideration. Very few household pets are being affected by CIV, particularly if they haven’t been boarded in kennels or been around a group of other dogs at dog parks or other heavily populated locations.

What is CIV?

Currently CIV is thus named because it cannot be spread to other species outside of canines. However, the virus is thought to have mutated from an equine virus that affects horses. This could be why the first cases were seen by racing Greyhounds in Florida who shared the track and facilities with horses.

Studies are showing that virtually all dogs that are exposed to CIV will become infected, however the grade and severity of the infection will vary. Dogs that are infected will have symptoms that can last up to a month, including nasal discharge, a low-grade fever an a cough that is mild and productive. Other symptoms can include lethargy, an unwillingness to eat, sneezing and discharge from the eyes.

The virus can be spread by sneezing, coughing, sharing toys and even by people who carry the disease on their clothing after interacting with another canine that is infected. The disease is most contagious within the first 48-72 hours prior to noticeable symptoms, which don’t usually occur until three to seven days following infection. Symptoms can last two to three weeks.

Because the symptoms for Canine Influenza Virus are so similar to other viruses, the only way to positively identify CIV is through the laboratory testing of a nasal swab. There is no antibiotic that can cure a virus, so the treatment for CIV is typically more supportive. Treatment with antibiotics may be recommended by your veterinary care in Southeastern Massachusetts if your dog is at-risk for developing a secondary infection.

How Dangerous is CIV?

There are two forms of the virus that is being seen. The first is a milder form, which is somewhat similar to bordetella or the typical kennel cough virus. The second is a more severe form, which is the version that most often leads to death due to the development of a hemorrhagic pneumonia. It is impossible at the onset of infection to predict whether a dog will develop symptoms of pneumonia.

The danger associated with CIV is found in about 10-20% of cases, which can develop a high fever and pneumonia. This is usually caused by a secondary bacterial infection. Currently the fatality rate is around 8% of affected dogs. So far the virus has not been responsive to antibiotic treatment, however treatment with antibiotics can be helpful in treating and preventing secondary infections.

What is the CIV Vaccine?

A vaccine has been developed by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer. This vaccine won’t completely prevent the disease, however it can decrease the severity of the symptoms and reduce the contagion time in dogs that become infected. If your dog is at-risk for becoming infected with CIV because of exposure to the facilities and situations mentioned above, speak with your veterinary care in Southeastern Massachusetts to find out more about the vaccine.

The Pfizer vaccine is given under the skin and not into the muscle. The vaccination must be followed up three weeks later with a booster vaccine shot. Once the initial vaccine and the booster are given, annual vaccinations for CIV are recommended for at-risk dogs.

Where to Get Veterinary Care in Southeastern Massachusetts

Founded in 1975, Anchor Animal Hospital has been serving patients in the Southcoast of Massachusetts and the East Bay of Rhode Island. Providing a high level of medical care, surgery and routine preventative care, Anchor Animal Hospital provides service to cats, dogs, amphibians, birds, ferrets, reptiles, rodents, rabbits and pocket pets, such as hamsters and the like. Contact Anchor Animal Hospital for more information on CIV and the CIV vaccine, or to find out whether your dog is at-risk.