Bird flu, horse flu, swine flu ... and now dog flu?
Reports of dog flu in Bexar County have dog owners concerned.
The first canine flu case was discovered in 2004, involving greyhounds in Florida. In 2005, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, canine influenza virus “was identified by experts as ‘a newly emerging pathogen in the dog population’ in the United States.” By April 2011, the virus had been found in 35 states, including Texas.
The H3N8 influenza virus, or dog flu, was originally a horse influenza virus that had spread to dogs, and now the virus can spread between dogs. The Centers for Disease Control describes dog flu as “a contagious respiratory disease in dogs caused by a Type A influenza virus.” This flu affects dogs, not humans.
According to a Sept. 19 San Antonio Express-News article, “20 confirmed cases” and “70 suspected cases have been recorded in San Antonio dogs within the past 30 days.” Calls are being received from area veterinarians with concerns about the severity of this disease and what actions to take.Patsy Bolf, D.V.M., an associate with Deason Animal Hospital in Floresville, said Sept. 21 that there is a “small outbreak of dog flu” and the disease is more an “urban problem than a rural problem.”
Bolf said the primary concern for dog owners should be those who frequent boarding kennels, groomers, dog parks, dog shows, and pet stores where dogs mix in close association with other dogs.
Symptoms are similar to kennel cough, but dogs with the dog flu will exhibit fever, cough, and nasal discharge.
It is a “mild disease thus far,” Bolf said.
Death occurs in a small percentage of animals, due to pneumonia. Elderly dogs or dogs with pre-existing conditions are more susceptible to developing pneumonia.
“It is hard to differentiate at this time” between dog flu and kennel cough, Bolf said. Screening to confirm the virus is available in labs, and dog owners should take their dogs in during the early stages, when the owner suspects that the animal is infected, she said.
Bolf added that some dogs are asymptomatic -- carrying the virus without showing symptoms of the disease.
The virus is not contagious to humans, and is passed by airborne methods or by animal-to-animal contact or contact with nasal discharge on water bowls, Bolf said.
Cleanliness dramatically helps in combating the disease, Bolf advised. The first line of defense is being aware of the risk areas, such as kennels and boarding facilities, she said.
“No doubt, [a] vaccine is more effective,” Bolf added.
Deason Animal Hospital is in the process of getting the vaccine.
This vaccine is not in the core vaccines, those vaccinations recommended for all puppies and dogs -- canine parvovirus, canine distemper virus, and rabies.
After the initial vaccination, a booster is required after a month. Bolf clarified that the vaccine is a “conditional licensed vaccine, labeled and believed to decrease the severity and length of the illness. It does not prevent the disease, and it has not been proven to prevent the disease,” she said.
Bolf said as of Sept. 21, Deason Animal Hospital had yet to treat a case of dog flu, but the clinic staff are watching carefully. Bolf could not give an official progress report of the severity of the disease.
This is a new virus in dogs, Bolf said, and all dogs are susceptible.