Frequently Asked Questions: Canine Influenza Outbreak

Q: Is it safe to bring my dog to the hospital during the Influenza outbreak?

A: Although we are seeing many sick pets, Blum Animal Hospital is doing everything possible to minimize the risk to healthy pets. Sick patients are being asked to wait in their vehicles until a room is available so they are not waiting in the lobby along with the other pets. Our entire hospital is being  thoroughly disinfected frequently with a bleach solution according to guidelines set by professionals. All staff members are wearing protective gear when handling sick pets to prevent becoming a fomite (a contagious source). The health of our patients is our top priority and we are working very hard to make sure owners feel very comfortable bringing patients in for care.

Q: Is there a vaccine to protect against Canine Influenza?

A: In November 2015, the USDA granted Zoetis a conditional license to release a vaccination to veterinarians to help protect dogs against the H3N2 strain of influenza. If you have any questions on whether or not your dog should receive this vaccine, please contact us and we would be happy to discuss this further with you.

Q: Should I bother vaccinating my dog if he/she never has interactions with other dogs?

A: We are currently recommending the vaccination for dogs who are considered “high risk patients.” A dog is considered a high risk patient if he or she visits boarding facilities, doggy day cares, grooming facilities, and dog friendly parks or beaches. Additionally, we would recommend vaccinating dogs that live in high rise buildings with communal elevators or dog runs, or dogs that have daily dogwalkers. Otherwise, diligent precautionary measures are an acceptable alternative for the vaccine if you are able to avoid all social interactions with your pet. The vaccine is available to all of our clients; an appointment is necessary to provide the safest and most time efficient experience for both client and patient.

Q: There’s a dog in my apartment/condo building that was diagnosed with influenza. What should I do?

A: The best thing to do in this case is to not allow your dog to explore the common areas of your apartment or condo building as much as possible. Smaller dogs can be picked up in the hallways, lobbies, elevators and stairwells. In the case of larger dogs who cannot be picked up by owners, we recommend trying to keep your dog safe by decreasing contact with other dogs. Avoid  letting them put their nose to the ground or other surfaces. The virus is airborne and many dogs in these situations can be coughed on in enclosed spaces with limited airflow, thereby becoming exposed. Additionally, the likelihood that the virus is going to land on an accessible surface is much greater than in the constantly circulating air outdoors which is able to dissipate the airborne virus much more effectively. One potential method to distract your pet from sniffing where other dogs have been is to distract them with some treats until you are safely outside the building.

Q: Is a cough always associated with the virus? What other signs should I watch for?

A: In the cases of influenza that we have seen, the primary sign of each patient has been a persistent cough. Other signs to watch for include discharge from the nose, a fever (a normal temperature for a dog should be anywhere between 99 to 102.5 degrees), lethargy and a lack of appetite. If you notice any of these signs, it is advised to contact your veterinarian’s office immediately.

Q: How long after my pet is exposed to the virus should he/she start showing signs?

A: If you think that your pet has been exposed to the H3N2 virus, symptoms could appear anywhere from 12 hours to three days after exposure. If you notice any of the signs associated with this influenza, do not hesitate to contact us for an appointment. One VERY important factor in the spread of this virus is that dogs are actively shedding the virus and capable of spreading it to another dog BEFORE clinical signs are seen.

Q: Is there a vaccine available for cats?

A:   No. This is the first time this virus has been documented on U.S. soil. Reports from China and South Korea, the only two locations to have ever seen the H3N2 virus, say that cats ARE susceptible to the virus. However, we have yet to have a confirmed case since the virus was introduced in our pet population about a month ago. Blum Animal Hospital has been sending samples from suspected patients to Cornell University and the USDA, who are both working diligently to develop a vaccine.

Q: Can I be a carrier of influenza?

A: Current studies show that humans are not at risk for contracting this virus. Although be advised that the virus can live on clothing for 24 hours. If you come into contact with a dog who could be infected, it is best to change your clothes and put them somewhere out of reach of your pet before you greet them.

Q: My dog already had influenza. Can he/she get it again?

A: After your pet recovers from CIV, specifically H3N2, it is unknown how long he or she will have natural immunity or protection. However, in cases of H3N8, a dog has been shown to have good natural immunity for approximately one month, which is very similar to humans who develop the flu. Once the antibodies are gone, your pet will again be at risk. For that reason, if your pet contracts CIV it is advised to begin the vaccination for the virus one month after he/she stops showing signs.

Q: Should I be worried about walking my dog outside where other dogs have walked?

A: There is always some level of risk with a virus as contagious as this one has proven to be. However the risk of your dog contracting the virus while walking outside is very low unless he/she is allowed to greet other dogs directly. Stay as far away from other pets on the sidewalks as possible. Even if they don’t seem to be coughing, they could be in the incubation period of the illness and be shedding the virus while not actively displaying symptoms.

Q: Are there any risks associated with getting this vaccine?

A: At this point, we have not seen any significant reactions as a result of giving this vaccine. As with all vaccines, there is a slight risk of an allergic reaction. Common signs of vaccine reaction include facial swelling or vomiting, occurring within the first few hours of having received the vaccination. If any of these signs are noticed, call your veterinarian immediately.