Dog flu nothing to sneeze about
Recently scientists have confirmed the presence of a virus that causes influenza (or flu) in dogs. As early as last year, Greyhound race tracks identified the flu bug, including a track in Kansas. Just this last year, canine flu has spread to pet dogs on the East Coast. It is suspected in dogs on the West Coast as well.
Already a vaccine for flu has been in the making and is supposedly going to be available in as short as six months. At this time, the pharmaceutical company developing it is unknown. Because of the potential serious affects of the virus on dogs, a vaccine will be necessary to control the spread and the clinical affects it has on dogs.
What might a person see if a dog is infected with canine flu? About 80 percent of those dogs infected will show mild flu symptoms such as a cough, nasal discharge and fever. A small number of affected dogs could develop pneumonia. Mortality rates have reached somewhere between 5 to 8 percent.
Experts say canine flu closely resembles kennel cough, which is caused by a bacteria bordatella bronchocephlica.
As for risk to people, the virus seems to have come from the horse influenza virus, but there seems to be little risk to people at this time.
The horse flu has been around for nearly 40 years without plaguing people. Spreading the disease could be as simple as one dog sneezing on another.
As for potential hot zones of transmission, it would be assumed boarding kennels, grooming parlors, training facilities and anywhere dogs congregate, like the park, or coming nose-to-nose would be suspect.
Have we seen this canine flu at our clinic? To date, it has not been documented by means of a test. But our caseload of upper respiratory disease has definitely increased.
Currently a blood test for exposure to canine flu is available at the veterinary school at Cornell University in New York.
If you suspect your dog has a respiratory disease, do not hesitate to seek help from your veterinarian. Again, there exists a mortality factor with this disease, as well as a risk that pneumonia could occur in some dogs. Early treatment would be one's best policy.
Quoting a "tip" from the centers for disease control and prevention that appeared in a recent published account, it is advised that dog owners take reasonable precautions if their pets become ill.
At any sign of respiratory infection, they should take their dog to a veterinarian. During a respiratory infection and for a couple of weeks after, dogs should be kept at home away from other dogs.
This article is a "heads up" to dog owners of the potential for canine flu to come to our area.
We, as a veterinary community, will do our best to keep you abreast of new developments, especially vaccine development.
Whatever you do, do not overlook a little cough or runny nose. Your dog deserves the best.