Update on Canine Influenza

Canine Flu Vaccine Available

By now we’re all aware of the H1N1 swine flu. Canine flu (H3N8), while not contagious to humans, is also on the upswing. Fortunately New Mexico’s dog population has so far been spared.


Dog flu has been around since 2004, a likely mutation of the equine influenza virus. What’s new is the vaccine, released by Intervet/Schering-Plough in June of this year. According to Cynda Crawford, D.V.M., Ph.D., professor of shelter medicine at the University of Florida, “Canine influenza is a highly contagious respiratory infection that has a significant impact on dogs housed in shelters, kennels and communal facilities. The vaccine can help prevent the medical, financial and emotional costs associated with this new virus.” Getting its start with racing Greyhounds canine influenza has been detected in 30 states and the District of Columbia.


So far this isn’t a huge problem but most New Mexico dogs, having never been exposed, lack any kind of natural immunity. If it enters our state it could spread quickly.


Diagnosis can be tricky. The mild form causes a soft, moist cough similar to kennel cough, that may continue for as long as 10 to 30 days. Many infected dogs also have thick, sometimes greenish, nasal discharge. Pneumonia and high fevers are hallmarks of the severe form. Dogs with rapid, difficult breathing can die from canine flu. These pets are treatable but, like any infection, early diagnosis is the best defense.


New Mexico veterinarians are carefully monitoring this disease. Wholesale vaccinations are not recommended at this point. I’ll keep my ear to the track and share updates as they become available.