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URMC developing new dog flu vaccine

Rochester, N.Y. - Researchers at URMC are partnering with Cornell University to develop a new flu vaccine for dogs.

Scientists said the method uses a live flu virus, “dampened down, so that it doesn’t cause the flu."

The vaccine would be a nasal spray, and could last for a dog's lifetime. Current vaccines that veterinarians use an “inactivated or killed” flu virus.

"The idea to develop these vaccines for canine influenza virus is not only to improve the health of the dog,” said Luis Martinez-Sobrido, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the URMC. “But also to prevent these viruses that are circulating now, in dogs, have the chance to jump from dogs into humans."

Martinez-Sobrido said it hasn’t happened yet, but it could.

"Historically, the live vaccines are more effective in controlling influenza in animals and humans,” he said. “That's what we want to do for the first time, a lifetime influenza vaccine."

Hannah Stroup takes her dog, Albie, out for some fresh air on her lunch break.

“So we can get some exercise for the day," she said.

Albie has not had the flu, nor a flu shot.

"One of my best friends also rescued a dog, and he got the flu soon after she adopted him,” Stroup said. “He, like, had to be in quarantine."

Flu symptoms in dogs are similar to what we get: Running nose, fever, cough, pneumonia or lethargy.

Veterinarians tell 13WHAM they haven’t seen any cases this year. However, they are grateful for the URMC/Cornell collaboration.

"If you're a dog owner, and you've got a dog that goes to boarding or goes to daycare or goes to shows, we are recommending vaccination, because your dog is at risk,” said Carolyn Fisher, executive director of Suburban Animal Hospital. “There is not immunity to protect from it."

Researchers and veterinarians said if your dog doesn't interact as much with other dogs, he's less likely to contract the canine flu virus.

Testing this new vaccine in dogs could begin in the next couple of years.

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