BREAKING NEWS on the Canine Influenza Outbreak

This latest statement from Family Pet Animal Hospital was issued via email to our clients on 4/13/15


Important Update on the Canine Influenza Outbreak in Chicago

The doctors and staff at Family Pet Animal Hospital wanted to inform all our clients, both dog and cat owners, about the latest information on the canine inluenza outbreak in the Chicago area. While Family Pet has posted information on our website and social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Google+) during the last few weeks, we are distributing this message via email in an attempt to reach as many of our clients as possible with the latest news.
As most of you are aware, the Chicago area has experienced a huge surge in respiratory infections in our pet canine population in recent weeks. The doctors here at Family Pet Animal Hospital have been working tirelessly to determine the cause and best course of treatment for our pets and the community by working closely with other local veterinary hospitals and veterinary specialists.

The current outbreak had previously been attributed to the H3N8 influenza strain, which was identified in the U.S. dog population back in 2004. However, on Sunday, April 12, 2015, laboratory scientists at Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin announced they have determined that the influenza outbreak in our area is due to a different strain of the virus than previously assumed. This strain of the virus had not previously been seen in North America. It is closely related to Inluenza A H3N2 viruses, which were identified in 2006 in southern Chinese and South Korean dog populations.

For our cat owners, we wanted you to be aware that the H3N2 viruses previously identified and studied in Asia were shown to cause respiratory illness in cats as well. However, there are no current reports of feline respiratory illness here in the U.S. from the strain of virus currently affecting the dog population. At this time, there is no vaccination available for cats. We will continue to provide updates to you as information becomes available.

Additionally, everyone should be aware that, to date, there is NO evidence that the virus can be transmitted to humans.

Symptoms of the virus are persistent, hacking cough, high fever, nasal discharge, lethargy, and inappetence. Because the best defense against contracting the virus is to minimize chances of exposure, we continue to strongly recommend eliminating your dog’s interaction with other dogs – daycare, boarding, training, dog parks, grooming salons, pet stores, and any other area dogs congregate. Please schedule an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian if he or she is displaying these symptoms. Early treatment is important to prevent progression to pneumonia or other serious health problems.

Unfortunately, no one knows whether or not the current influenza vaccine available for dogs (developed for the H3N8 strain) will be effective against the new strain. The canine inluenza vaccine protocol requires a series of two vaccines given two to four weeks apart. It is important to note that any protection offered would not begin until a minimum of four to six weeks from the initial vaccine. For those patients who have received the first vaccine in the series, we absolutely recommend finishing the series.

Given the information we have at this time, the highly contagious nature of the virus, the fact that a handful of dogs have died due to complications of the illness, and because the existing vaccine is the only potential defense available, unless you are able to keep your dog isolated in your home and yard, the doctors at Family Pet Animal Hospital continue to recommend vaccinating your dog. Our hope is that the vaccine may offer some cross protection against the current strain, lessening the symptoms and severity of illness. While the number of cases of respiratory illness we are seeing on a daily basis has begun to decrease in the last few days, we are unable to say how long the outbreak will last.

The press release issued on 4/12/15 from Cornell University is available here:http://mediarelations.cornell.edu/2015/04/12/midwest-canine-influenza-outbreak-caused-by-new-strain-of-virus

Please continue to visit our website and connect with us on social media for the latest updates. We will continue to share any information we have as it becomes available as we are deeply committed to the health of our patients and pets in our community.