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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

New Influenza Vaccine

Many people are aware that in early 2015 a new strain of canine influenza hit the US and hit it hard.  I wrote a few blogs about the disease and experience (look here) as I live and practice near Atlanta and we were one of the hardest hit areas in the country.  Thankfully the outbreak passed, but it is in multiple areas of the country and definitely can crop up again in my area.  It just popped up in Montana and is causing concerns there.
Last year we didn't have a vaccine against this strain.  Yes, we did have an influenza vaccine, but it covered the H3N8 strain.  What we dealth with last year was the H3N2 strain and the infectious disease specialists didn't expect there to be any cross protection.  So a dog vaccinated for H3N8 was still at risk for H3N2.  Many vets gave the H3N8 vaccine because we didn't have any other options.
Recently provisional approval was given to two manufacturers for a H3N2 vaccine.  This is good news!  This vaccine does address the risk of this newer, more contagious strain of influenza and will hopefully help prevent outbreaks like what happened last year.
The vaccine is approved for dogs six weeks old or older.  They will receive a vaccination and then a booster in two to four weeks, with annual re-vaccination recommended.  It is only recommended for dogs who are potentially at risk for contracting influenza.  This includes dogs who frequent public spaces such as dog parks, are boarded frequently, groomed often, or travel frequently.  A dog who pretty much stays in their house and yard is at minimal risk for influeza exposure and so wouldn't need the vaccine.
Here's one caution, though.  Neither vaccine is protective against the opposite strain, so if you want to be really thorough your dog will need to receive both.  Personally (I have no evidence of this) I fully expect there to be a multi-valent canine influenza vaccine in the near future that covers both strains.  Until then you should talk to your vet about whether or not your dog needs both.  Here in northern Georgia I'm only going to recommend the H3N2 vaccine because we've never seen the other strain in this area.
We are just now able to order the vaccine at my practice and I was reading an article about it in a recent trade magazine, so it may not be widely available and some vets may not be aware that it has come out.  If you are interested and your dog is potentially at risk, talk to your vet.