The dog flu, should we be concerned?
Many of you have heard the buzz about the dog flu. In 2004 the canine flu was reported at a greyhound racetrack in Florida. Since then, the disease has killed racing greyhounds in several southern states. This year, it has been found in shelters, boarding facilities, clinics and pet shops. From the amount of coverage this virus is getting on the web, you would think that this flu is a pandemic that is about to wipe out the entire dog population.
Fortunately, this isnt so. However, with a fatality rate of more than 1% in adult dogs and up to 10% in puppies, we should all be aware of the symptoms because early treatment seems to help survival rates.
The Clemson University Veterinary Diagnostic Center has only just begun to offer testing to categorize respiratory infections as flu or non-flu, so we dont know if there have been any cases in South Carolina. My colleagues and I have seen cases that fit the description of this severe respiratory disease, but I cannot say for sure if these were actually flu. The cases I saw spread readily among littermates, but did not spread to other animals in the shelter as one might expect with a true flu outbreak. Hopefully this disease is not in our area, but if it is or if it should appear, we need to be ready.
Unfortunately, the symptoms look like the basic kennel cough infection that we see regularly in dogs coming from shelters. The coughing, runny noses and gagging looks exactly the same in both diseases. However, where kennel cough is somewhat responsive to antibiotics and is accompanied by only mild fevers, dogs with the canine flu will spike fevers of up to 106F (normal 100-103F). Despite treatment with antibiotics and cough suppressants, dogs with the flu may develop pneumonia and show worsening symptoms for as long as four weeks.
Up to 80% of dogs in an infected kennel will show symptoms. Your veterinarian can send samples to the Clemson Veterinary Diagnostic Center in Columbia for testing. There is currently no vaccination. There is no specific antibiotic or antiviral medication that will treat this disease, however, aggressive symptomatic therapy with fluids, broad-spectrum antibiotics, oxygen and cough suppressants may be necessary.
If your dog should start coughing, please keep him or her isolated from other dogs. Wash your hands after handling a coughing dog. And, before you enter a veterinary hospital, notify the staff that your dog is coughing so that he or she can be expedited into an area where the infection wont spread to other dogs in the clinic.
If there is any good news, it that there are no known cases of the canine flu infecting humans.
Article written by:
Katherine Saenger, DVM
Bees Ferry Veterinary Hospital
3422 Shelby Ray Court,Charleston, SC 29414
James Island Journal
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