Merck Animal Health today matched competitor Zoetis Inc. with the release of a dog flu vaccine that protects against the new H3N2 strain.
Merck, based in Madison, N.J., received a conditional license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for Canine Influenza Vaccine, H3N2, Killed Virus.
Zoetis announced the same achievement, the first company to do so, on Nov. 12.
Merck’s vaccine will be made available to U.S. veterinarians starting Monday.
H3N2, which emerged in Chicago in March before striking dogs in other states, quickly caught the drug maker’s attention.
“Early on, we suspected veterinarians were dealing with an outbreak of canine influenza and not kennel cough, which spurred us to implement the collection of nasal and pharyngeal samples from sick dogs that were tested by Cornell University,” said Kathleen Heaney, DVM, director of Companion Animal Technical Services. “We came to realize what was actually unfolding was the transmission of an influenza strain, H3N2, never before seen in the United States.
“Based on the highly contagious nature of the strain, the severity of clinical disease and the rate at which we were seeing newly diagnosed cases, we knew we needed to act fast,” Dr. Heaney said.
The canine H3N2 virus may be shed for up to 24 days, an unusually long period, Merck reported
“As a result, the infection can spread quickly among social dogs in inner cities, doggie day cares, boarding facilities, dog parks, sporting and show events and any location where dogs commingle,” the company stated.
The strain cannot spread to people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.