by Bonnie Markoff, DVM

There is an outbreak of dog flu in California that seems to center around the San Jose area, but is working it’s way slowly towards San Luis Obispo. Canine influenza is a highly contagious viral respiratory disease that is spread just like the common cold, through direct contact (sniffing, licking, nuzzling), through the air (coughing or sneezing), contaminated surfaces (sharing water bowls or toys), or contaminated people (with virus on hands or clothing). In dogs, influenza is generally mild with about 20% of patients having moderate to severe illness. It can be fatal. Symptoms include coughing or retching, sneezing, nasal or eye discharge, decreased appetite, lethargy, fever, or pneumonia. These can last from a few days to several weeks. The viruses are not infectious to people.

The more your dog socializes with other dogs, the higher the risk of exposure to dog flu and other infectious respiratory diseases. If your dog goes to doggie day care or boarding, plays at the dog park, attends dog shows, participates in agility or other such events, visits the groomer, or likes to greet other dogs during walks, they have an increased potential exposure to respiratory diseases.

Vaccination is very helpful. There are two viruses that can cause the disease and so it is important that your dog be vaccinated for both. Be sure that you are getting the bivalent vaccine – it costs a little more but is well worth it! Vaccination requires two initial doses, 3 weeks apart with yearly boosters. Animal Care Clinic has the bivalent vaccine in stock. Please call us to discuss your dog’s risk factors or to schedule an appointment. If your dog has a fever, coughs or shows other signs of respiratory disease, please call our office immediately.