Thursday, August 25, 2011

Newly Emerging Pathogen in Dogs: Canine Influenza

The "dog flu" is a new disease; it was only identified in dogs 7 years ago.  While there is a vaccination available, it is not contained within our 'distemper combo' shot.  Because this disease is new, nearly all dogs who are exposed will get it.  They have no pre-formed anti-bodies from their moms, and they likely have not been vaccinated.  They first discovered the disease in Greyhounds:

From the CDC website:
The H3N8 equine influenza virus has been known to exist in horses for more than 40 years. In 2004, however, cases of an unknown respiratory illness in dogs (initially greyhounds) were reported. An investigation showed that this respiratory illness was caused by the equine influenza A H3N8 virus. Scientists believe that this virus jumped species (from horses to dogs) and has now adapted to cause illness in dogs and spread efficiently among dogs. This is now considered a new dog-specific lineage of H3N8. In September of 2005, this virus was identified by experts as “a newly emerging pathogen in the dog population” in the United States.

Canine Influenza (CIV) has had outbreaks in 30 areas, including Colorado.  It is not transmisable between your dog and other animals, which includes you!  It can survive 2 days in the environment, and can be passed from your hands and clothes for 24 hours if you've not disinfected them.  All bodily secretions are considered contagious, with aerosolization being the most concern: the infected dog coughing.  My studies suggest that while there is a vaccine, it doesn't so much prevent your dog from getting it, as it merely reduces severity and duration. 

Some dogs have no symptoms, while others manifest it as an upper respiratory infection that may, at first, not look too dissimilar to "kennel cough".  In fact, it may be hard to discern the difference, and your vet cannot test in-house for this (lab work needs to be sent out).  Your dog, if infected, will develop a high fever and possibly pneumonia.  Dogs with the Bordetella virus don't necessarily develop pneumonia, and Bordetella in general isn't as severe as CIV.  Though I said "severe" this describes it has potentially looking worse than Bordetella, but in no way suggests survival is an issue.  Your dog will likely recover in a couple of weeks with care from your veterinarian. 

Owners always need to know that there are many things which cause upper respiratory symptoms in our dogs.  It's always important to be aware of new diseases.  I felt pretty certain that when I adopted my Ana, she had much more going on than Bordetella.  She was anorexic for a week before I got her, and a week after I had her.  I had to force feed her, as well as do meds 3 times a day.  It always seemed much more "serious" to me than "kennel cough"! 

I think it's important to be aware of new contagions, especially for owners who expose their dogs to day care, dog parks, and other scenarios where they meet a lot of different dogs.  It's important to know the Bordetella vaccine doesn't vaccinate against everything that causes coughing in dogs.  Lastly, always make a trip to the vet anytime your dog shows symptoms of upper respiratory infection!

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