As many of us in the field of veterinary medicine anticipated, canine flu has surfaced once again in the Chicagoland area this spring, and will likely continue to spread to unvaccinated dogs across the United States.

Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) strain H3N2 was first introduced in the States during 2015’s outbreak in Chicago and the Midwest. The respiratory illness, which can produce high fevers, persistent coughing, sneezing, and fatigue, has owners in the area naturally worried about the risk to their four-legged companion.

As a response, we would like to go over some of the information provided during last year’s outbreak, how you can protect your pet from exposure, and what to expect when needing veterinary, boarding, or other pet services during this time.

Preparing for the Canine Flu Outbreak

One of the first questions we often get about CIV H3N2 is the risk, and whether simply avoiding places like kennels or dog parks will protect an animal companion.

Unfortunately, because this is a new virus strain we are dealing with, all unvaccinated dogs (and, in less common cases, cats) are at risk of infection. So, yes, while avoiding high exposure areas can help decrease your pet’s chances of coming into contact with the virus, it is not the safest means of avoiding the illness.

Thankfully there are vaccines available for both CIV strains, H3N8, which was identified in 2004, and H3N2. Because H3N2 has the capacity to make your pet quite ill, as dogs have not yet build up antibodies to this infection, pet owners with healthy dogs over the age of 4 weeks are encouraged to consider this 2 dose vaccine.

Along with protecting your fur friend from H3N2, it is a good idea to consider vaccinating against Bordetella or kennel cough, which can mirror H3N2 in certain clinical symptoms.

Both illnesses are highly contagious, so by protecting your pet you also help protect other pets within the community.

What We Are Doing As a Response

At Union Lake Veterinary Hospital, we are closely monitoring the current outbreak as well as new developments with treatment and prevention.

Because our priority is the health, safety, and wellbeing of our pet patients, we are asking that pets that come in for services be vaccinated against H3N2 and H3N8. This also includes daycare, boarding, and grooming.

While we understand this may present some inconvenience, we want to ensure all pets within our care are protected – especially those with compromised immunity or seniors, who are more at risk for developing pneumonia and more serious complications from CIV H3N2.

Although it is easy to feel worried about canine influenza, the good news is that we can help safeguard pets through vaccinations and other prevention tactics. Those dogs who do get ill also seem to recover quickly with only mild to moderate symptoms.

Keeping you informed about canine influenza H3N2 is very important to us, and we welcome your questions regarding the virus, your pet’s risk, and vaccination requirements.