With all the media attention lately on how the bird flu is putting the human race in danger it is no wonder that the new canine flu would be subject to the same media frenzy. The truth is that the dog flu is a real danger for your dog to contact but it is not nearly as severe as the reports you may have heard.
Influenza (flu) virus is commonly seen in people and animals. Until now it has been very rare in dogs and had only been seen in racing greyhounds. Recently a number of pet dogs have been diagnosed with the illness. These reports have caused the media frenzy that has over exaggerated the seriousness of this disease. The disease is spreading and is highly contagious but in most cases the disease only causes mild to moderate symptoms. These symptoms appear similar to kennel cough and include coughing a nasal discharge and sometimes a high fever. The cough may last up to three weeks regardless of treatment. As with most viruses there are no drugs to kill the virus and the disease needs to run its course. Some of the new human anti-viral drugs have been tried but there is no data showing its efficacy. Most animals recover with no treatment. In severe cases dogs may require intravenous fluids and antibiotics to fight secondary infections. It is these secondary infections that may be responsible for the 5% of the dogs who have contracted the disease and died.
This is a virus that has appears to have been an equine (horse) virus which mutated to a form that is infective to dogs. Since this is a new virus that dogs do not have any immunity against most will contract the virus if they come in contact with it. About 80% of the dogs that contract it will show symptoms of the disease. Of those dogs 95% will show mild to moderate symptoms. The 20% of the dogs that do not show symptoms are contagious and can spread the disease. There is a vaccine in development.
Most of the dogs that have been diagnosed with canine flu were in animal shelters, boarding kennels or pet stores: facilities in which dogs are found in high numbers.
If you think you have come in contact with a dog that has canine flu, wash your hands and clothing before touching your dog. If your dog has a respiratory infection please be responsible and do not take them to the park, groomer or boarding facility
There is no evidence that this virus can infect people so you and your children are not at risk.
Although the disease has not been reported in Maryland as of this writing, it is only a matter of time before we will see it.
Compliments of Steven Wolchinsky DVM Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital L.L.C. 7515 Brooklyn Bridge Road Laurel, MD 301-776-7744