ome local veterinarians are recommending certain dogs receive an influenza vaccination, particularly those regularly around other dogs.
This comes after six confirmed cases and about a dozen more were voluntarily reported in the northwest part of the state, said Denise Derrer, public information director for the Indiana State Board of Animal Health.
Canine influenza, or dog flu, is a highly contagious respiratory infection of dogs that has swept through Chicago, sickening more than 1,000 dogs and killing five between January and March.
Veterinarian Paul Rennekamp of St. Francis Pet Hospital in Seymour said it’s not required but he recommends the flu vaccine for show dogs or others that are traveling with their owners to affected areas.
“Since we’re not in a real hot zone area, we’re not currently recommending for all pets,” Rennekamp said.
Veterinarian Klent Brown of Jackson County Animal Clinic said he recommends the vaccine for dogs that are close to others on a regular basis, such as doggy day cares, groomers, dog parks or in kennels.
“For most dog owners, it’s not worth panicking over. But if you are in the higher-risk category and you’re concerned, then it’s the best thing to go ahead and get it,” Brown said.
Brown ordered influenza vaccines last week after hearing about the cases in Indiana. Though he has never seen a dog flu case at his office, he said he’s taking precautions as other dog owners should, particularly those that are old, young or with compromised immunity.
“The flu can be deadly in the right situation,” he said.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dogs with a mild form of the flu develop a cough, may be lethargic with reduced appetite or fever and may have sneezing and discharge of the eyes or nose. Severe forms may cause high fevers and show signs of pneumonia, such as increased respiratory rates.
If contracted, treatment depends on the dog’s condition and health. Similar to humans, a healthy dog with an effective immune response will likely have a better outcome, according to AVMA.
The vaccine, which ranges from $25 to $35, is given in two doses during a three- to four-week period of time. It’s then given annually.
Dogs as young as 8 weeks can receive the vaccine, which can take up to five weeks to start working.
Rennekamp said there are two strains of the virus, but the vaccine only protects against one called H3N8.
The most recent cases in Chicago are strains of H3N2 — the first ever reported in the U.S. Though it’s not known if there’s cross-protection, some animal health officials are still encouraging the vaccine.
Rennekamp said cases of kennel cough, which is contagious, is typically seen in some dogs, but the seriousness of that and the flu are completely different.
“Kennel cough is a real dry cough, and it’s a nuisance. But in general, they aren’t that sick and are still eating and drinking,” he said.
Unlike the flu that affects humans, he said the immediate spread is less likely.
“It may just kind of stay tamed,” he said. “Hopefully, it won’t hit our area.”
If the situation were to escalate, he said his office would let the media know as well as clients through an email.
To date, there is no evidence of transmission of canine influenza virus from dogs to people. It has caused infection and respiratory illness in cats, according to AVMA.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
For updates and information, visit the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website at avma.org/Pages/home.aspx.