Vol 8 No 2

Dedicated to the memory of

Bronwyn McFadden

Spring 2006

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Features in this Issue:

Meet Harry & Kyra

Foster Home Surprises

Upcoming Events

Thank You

Remembering Bronwyn

Welcoming A New Dog

Shopping Made Easy


Dog Flu

Remembering With Fondness

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Dog Flu

Moose Dannhauser looking healthy and happy

The newspapers have been full of news of “bird flu” these past few months, as public health officials and scientists express concern over the possibility of a devastating flu pandemic that could affect humans. Unfortunately, evidence is mounting that dogs are also susceptible to a new influenza virus, with new cases having been observed more widely beginning in the fall of 2005.

The “dog flu” (designated as H3N8 virus) was first observed in Greyhounds at racing tracks in Florida in 2004, although retrospective testing of samples indicates that the virus had been active in Greyhound populations dating back to 2000. The virus is thought to be a variant of an equine virus, and indeed, current work on a vaccine focuses on equine virus structures. Cases have spread throughout the United States, including in the tri-state area, and likely followed the movement of Greyhounds between racing tracks throughout the country.  Scientists don’t believe that humans are at risk for contracting the dog flu as a result of close contact with dogs.

Although some dogs afflicted with the flu virus have died quickly (usually after bleeding from the mouth and nose) most dogs recover from the infection within about two weeks. Common symptoms of the flu infection include respiratory symptoms (coughing and discharges, similar to what is seen with “kennel cough” infections) and fevers. Some dogs have experienced very high fevers and have also contracted pneumonia in addition to suffering from the flu.

Unfortunately, dogs can contract the virus and be contagious to others before any symptoms appear. Thus, situations in which dogs come into close contact (such as when being boarded in a kennel or when in a shelter) offer ample opportunity for infection. Careful control of exposure to other dogs and vigilant decontamination of common surfaces may help reduce the possibility of infection in cases where boarding is necessary. Dogs need not necessarily be isolated from situations where they will encounter other dogs, but it is good practice to ask whether a process is in place to insure that dogs at a kennel, show, or other gathering have been monitored for symptoms of the flu infection. Since no vaccine currently exists, the best prevention strategy is to limit contact with other dogs who show symptoms; if it is your dog with a fever or respiratory issues, be sure to consult your veterinarian and make it your responsibility to limit exposure to other dogs.  Dogs are at risk for being infected if they come into contact with material discharged from the dog’s respiratory system, and also more inert surfaces that may have been in contact with those discharges.

Good resources are available on the web to keep abreast of the dog flu, as a supplement to the advice of your vet. The American Veterinary Medicine Association (http://www.avma.org/public_health/influenza/canine_guidelines.asp) has a good summary; Cornell University (http://bakerinstitute.vet.cornell.edu/public/public-news.html) and the University of Florida (http://www.vetmed.ufl.edu/pr/nw_story/AAHAcaninefluQ&A.htm) also have useful resources.