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Canine Influenza

written by Linda Aronson, DVM


Despite all the panic in the presses,canine influenza is not the threat we’ve been led to believe. This is not bird flu. Still, we need to inform ourselves of the facts so we can be prepared in case our dogs get sick.

Canine influenza is a viral disease and it is thought to be a mutation of the virus that causes equine influenza.Actually, this also is a group of viruses. Dogs should never be vaccinated with products intended for the control of equine flu. Two clinical forms have been reported in dogs. The mild form resembles kennel cough caused by the Bor d a te l l a bron c hi s ep t i c a/parainfluenza virus complex. Dogs may have a dry cough - like kennel cough - or a soft moist cough. This form lasts for 10 to 30 days. There may also be a thick, often green, nasal discharge as a result of secondary bacterial infection. Dogs with the severe form have high fevers (104 to106oF) and clinical signs of pneumonia (possibly due to secondary bacterial infection). Because this is a new disease virtually all dogs will be susceptible to infection, and about 80% of exposed dogs will show signs of illness; most though have the mild form. About 5 to 8% of the dogs developing pneumonia have died.The disease was first seen among racing greyhounds at a Florida track.in January 2004, from there it spread to other tracks, and finally to pet dogs, at first in pet shelters, humane societies, pet stores, breeding kennels and finally in the general pet population. To check to see if canine influenza has been reported in your state go to the Cornell Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory site

 http://www.diaglab.vet.cornell.edu/issues/civ-stat.asp

spectrum antibiotic. Dogs with the severe form or any that are dehydrated should receive intravenous fluids too. Because dogs catch the virus from other dogs avoiding sick dogs is the best prevention. Boarding kennels and other places where dogs are in close proximity should be carefully monitored, and steer clear of sick dogs. If you plan to leave your dog at a kennel, ask if there are plans in place to isolate any dogs that become sick, and what action the kennel would take should there be an outbreak. The virus can also be passed by respiratory secretions and contaminated objects. Clothing, equipment, surfaces and hands must be
cleaned and disinfected after exposure to any dog showing signs of respiratory illness – laundering is sufficient for clothing.Manufacturers are trying to produce a vaccine against canine influenza. If your dog is to be exposed to other potentially infected dogs, some arerecommending vaccinating against Bordatella bronchiseptica, parainfluenza and adenovirus type 2, both to prevent secondary superinfection of dogs with canine influenza with these diseases, and to make it easier to rule out these diseases as the cause of infection in sick dogs. However,some dogs do develop kennel cough subsequent to vaccination.There is no rapid test for canine
influenza so care must be taken to prevent the spread of all respiratory diseases while test results are pending.Antibodies to the virus do not appear in the serum until 7 or more days after the onset of clinical signs (acute phase). Convalescent samples can be collected 2 weeks later to show that the infection is being cleared. Post-mortem analysis of fresh lung and tracheal tissue can prove the cause of the pneumonia, and Cornell is working on improving viral detection in respiratory secretion samples of live dogs.At this time, it does not seem that canine influenza can be spread to other animals (even horses) or humans. However, viruses do mutate,and handling these dogs carefully, not eating in their presence, etc is recommended even when there are no other dogs present.                                                       +++++

A grateful thank you to Linda Aronson, DVM for the use of this article.