Canine Influenza Outbreak and How to Manage It with Dr. Marty Greer
Dr. Marty Greer, DVM joins host Laura Reeves to discuss the current Canine Influenza outbreak, how to manage it and how it became an overnight sensation in the public.
“Well, partially it’s media, partially it’s misinformation, courtesy of the media,” Greer said. “And partially there was a lack of vaccine. The vaccine insufficient supply appears to have been corrected or is being corrected.
“So, things are better. In 2004 when this first happened, we didn’t have any vaccine and no dogs in any part of the world that we know had immunity to this. So Ron Schultz,the vaccine guru from University of Wisconsin, made a recommendation that all dogs should be vaccinated against this, that it should be considered a core vaccine because no dogs had natural immunity.
“It was like when Parvo happened in the late 70s and early 80s came out of nowhere, there was no immunity and bada bing bada boom we’ve got dogs that are desperately sick and dying.
“Influenza is a respiratory disease and it is classified in the CIRD, the canine infectious respiratory disease complex. So a lot of times that’s either called CIRD or it’s called kennel cough. There’s a whole bucket of stuff that falls in the kennel cough bucket and it’s not necessarily a diagnosis. It’s a description. It’s a collection of disorders, diseases, but it’s not necessarily a diagnosis.
“So we have had outbreaks of canine influenza (before). The first known outbreak was in 2004 in a colony of Greyhounds, I believe in Florida, and they think it was a mutation from the equine version of influenza.
“And that was H3N8. There’s now also an H3N2 that we have identified and can vaccinate against.
“Like all respiratory diseases, it causes a cough, but in this particular case, influenza can cause disease severe enough to cause hemorrhagic pneumonia and the death of patients. And there have been patients that have died in this last outbreak that occurred this fall (at the Golden Retriever national in Albany, Oregon).
“It had to get to the Golden Retriever National somehow. It’s not like the Golden Retriever group invented it, just drummed up a new virus, but it appears that it reared its ugly head there. There were a number of dogs that were there that then went back to all over the U.S.
“So, they were East Coast, Midwest, everywhere. And these dogs were coming back with respiratory disease and it was easy to just say, ‘Uh, it’s kennel cough, here’s some medication, you’ll be fine.’ But one of my associates was involved with some of the Golden Retrievers that were at that show and I was in surgery the day she walked in and said, ‘You know, we’ve got these dogs that are coming back from the Golden National with a pretty bad cough.’ And I don’t know why but the hair kind of stood up on the back of my neck and I said, ‘We need to get these dogs tested for what kind of virus or bacteria we have.’
“There was just something about, I don’t know if it was her tone of voice or the number of dogs that were involved. There’s something about that conversation that just said to me, ‘We have problems.’
“So, we swabbed the most recently started to cough dogs. We didn’t want a dog that had already been coughing for a week by the time we did the sample collection and submitted that to our local diagnostic lab at the same time that a number of other people were submitting samples.
“We weren’t the only ones by any stretch of the imagination that felt we need a diagnosis on this. So, at our diagnostic lab in Wisconsin, they came back with influenza A. At some of the other diagnostic labs, they came back with influenza H3N2, I believe. Not that it makes that much of a difference if it’s H3N2 or H3N8. It’s influenza anyway. So, there were multiple labs with multiple dogs that had all been at the same event.
“They were coming up with the same answer. And so, when I walked up to my front desk last week and on the computer screen in front of my receptionist, there was a message from the media that said, “Mystery disease.” I was like, ‘It’s really not this mysterious, folks.’
“And so, we need to start addressing it by getting more dogs vaccinated. So, it’s time for us to not call it a mystery disease. It’s time for us to make some decisions on whether this is a lifestyle vaccine or a core vaccine and get some of these dogs vaccinated that are at risk because this is a very serious illness.
“No question that if the dogs don’t have immunity, it’s a very serious illness. Like I said, it causes hemorrhagic pneumonia. Some of these dogs are dying. Even if they’ve been put on ventilators and all the really high-powered stuff that they’ve been doing, sometimes we’re still losing dogs to this. And it’s really a shame to lose dogs to a disease that we can vaccinate against.
“I don’t care if you’re doing agility or fly ball or competition with hunt test or field trials or confirmation. If you’re going to the dog park, if your dogs are going to the groomer, any dog that qualifies as based on lifestyle for bordatella vaccinations should also be receiving influenza vaccine.”
K9 Flu Is Serious Risk Because Dogs Have No Natural Immunity
Dr. Marty Greer takes us through the outbreaks of Canine Influenza (K9 Flu) in the United States. She also offers recommended vaccination protocols for adults and puppies.
Outbreaks of two different strains of Canine Influenza have left U.S. dog owners struggling with if and when to vaccinate against this virus. Greer advocates strongly for “yes” and “annually.”
K9 Flu causes pneumonia
“No dogs have natural immunity to the disease,” Greer said. “Unless vaccinated, dogs are at serious risk. I have my personal dogs on a three-year protocol, but even Dr. Ronald Schultz is advocating that owners vaccinate for influenza in ALL dogs.”
Greer notes that the 2015 virus outbreak came with Korean meat dog “rescue” imports and spread rapidly. Dogs traveling for competition at the highest risk of contact.
Influenza in the dog causes pneumonia, Greer said. The symptoms look like kennel cough to start, but progress rapidly to pneumonia, including a hemorrhagic variant.
“Eight percent of infected dogs die,” Greer said. “This really is a big deal.”
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
Treatment with two weeks of antibiotics, iv fluids, possibly even oxygen, is common Greer said. Follow up xrays to confirm the pneumonia is controlled are required. Even dogs less severely affected are infectious for up to 3 weeks.
Two vaccine companies offer products which cover both strains of the disease and are readily available, Greer said. The vaccinations require two injections, two-four weeks apart, with an annual booster. Since the vaccines have only been available since 2016, there isn’t sufficient data to determine if they are effective longer than that.
Impacts on puppy vaccination protocols
Adding the K9 Flu vaccine into a puppy vaccination protocol can be a challenge, but Greer said the vaccine can be given as young as seven weeks of age. She recommends inoculating on a staggered schedule. She also strongly recommends the nomograph system of establishing vaccination timing for puppies. Her recommendation is to pull blood on the dam at the same appointment in which ultrasound confirms pregnancy. This blood is shipped off to a laboratory that measures the bitch’s immunity levels to disease and pinpoints exactly what date the puppies should be vaccinated.
Canine Nomograph – What is it?
A nomograph is an estimate of the amount of antibody passed to a litter of pups from the mother via her colostrum. During the puppy’s first hours of life, its intestinal tract is able to allow colostral antibody to be absorbed into the bloodstream. This passive antibody helps to protect the newborn from all the diseases that the mother is protected from. As the puppy grows up, maternal antibody breaks down in approximately 2 week “half lives” until it is no longer present in the pup. While this antibody is at higher levels, it is able to neutralize viruses such as canine parvovirus and canine distemper virus. Because of this neutralization, puppy vaccine can be blocked. Maternal antibody interference is one of the most common causes of vaccine failure to immunize! The reason that puppies are given multiple doses of vaccine is because most of the time we don’t know what their maternal antibody titers are, and so don’t know when the vaccine will be effective. Nomograph testing helps us understand the best timing of vaccination to assure a litter will be effectively immunized. Because the nomograph is limited by the ability of the dam to make colostrum and for the pups to receive it, nomograph results should not be used as a definitive indication of protection from disease. If you are a breeder who is experiencing a disease outbreak, please contact us prior to submitting a nomograph.
(Reference: Baker, Robson, Gillespie, Burgher, and Doughty. A nomograph that predicts the age to vaccinate puppies against distemper. Cornell Veterinarian, Aug 1958, page 158-167.)
Listen to Dr. Gayle Watkins in an early PureDogTalk interview on the topic of nomographs.