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If you'll remember, last Spring we talked about the canine flu that surfaced in the Chicago-land area. Dogs began suffering from runny noses and eyes, high fevers, lethargy and loss of appetite. Over 1500 fell ill to this sudden sickness and at least eight passed away from secondary symptoms.
But this wasn't a coincidence. At first, it seemed as if the dogs were suffering from canine flu, known as H3N8, a mutation of equine flu. But when the dogs remained sick for much longer, and the infection proved to be much more serious and contagious than H3N8, veterinarians discovered that it was actually a new string of canine influenza.
This particular string of canine influenza actually surfaced from a mutation of avian flu, H3N2. Originally, the only documented cases of this string were reported in Asia. But, since the outbreak in Chicago last year, there have been reported cases of this same string in 25 other states, the most serious outbreaks being in Atlanta and Cincinnati.
In response to this, a vaccine was developed. It has been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and serves as the only preventative measure to H3N2. With all the traveling that's going to be happening around the holidays, you have to ask yourself if it's worth it to get your dog vaccinated.
You'll have to take into account certain factors: H3N2 is not necessarily fatal. While dogs have died from secondary illnesses caused by the flu, its mortality rate is still very low. However, its morbidity rate (the likelihood of a carrier becoming sick) is very high. So if your dog is exposed to it, they are very likely to contract it. And nobody wants a sick dog!
You'll also need to consider how likely it is that your dog will contract it. Do you take them to the groomer or put them in doggy daycare? Do they participate in dog shows? Is it common for your dog to be in contact with other dogs or people who have been around other dogs? These things will heighten your dog's risk of contracted H3N2.
If you hear of local cases and you know your dog has exposure to other animals, you might want to consider it. However, it's important to consider professional opinions as well. While the Department of Agriculture has approved the vaccine, it's still not common or "essential" like the rabies vaccine. However, it all of its licensing goes through, then it will be a recommend yearly shot.
The vaccine is currently running $25 to $35 per dose, given in two doses. The vaccine has received both neutral and positive response. In the end, it's kind of like the yearly flu shot developed for us humans. To vaccinate or not to vaccinate, that is the question, and only you can answer!
Stay healthy, pups!