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10 Things to Know About the H3N8 Dog Flu

Micah Albert for The New York Times

Who’s at risk from canine influenza?

Dr. Cynda Crawford, clinical assistant professor in the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville, recently answered dozens of readers’ questions on the Consults blog, “The Dog Flu Virus: Are You or Your Pet At Risk?” Many readers had questions about flu symptoms, how the virus is spread and whether their pets should receive the newly approved vaccine for the disease. Here are 10 things Dr. Crawford believes everyone should know about canine influenza and the risks to pets and people.

 

What is canine influenza?

 

Canine influenza is a highly contagious respiratory infection of dogs caused by a novel influenza virus that was first discovered in 2004. We do not use the general term “dog flu” because it could refer to any flu-like illness in dogs due to various causes. Rather, canine influenza is a specific disease caused by a particular subtype, H3N8, of the influenza A virus.

 

Where does canine influenza occur?

 

Canine influenza has been documented in 30 states and the District of Columbia. At this time, the canine influenza virus is very prevalent in many communities in Colorado, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania. There is no evidence that canine influenza H3N8 is currently infecting dogs in other countries.

 

What type of infection does canine influenza virus cause?

 

Like influenza viruses that infect other mammals, canine influenza virus causes an acute respiratory infection in dogs. It is one of several viruses and bacteria that are associated with canine infectious respiratory disease, or what’s commonly referred to as “kennel cough.” The canine influenza virus can cause respiratory disease by itself or along with other canine respiratory pathogens.

Unlike human influenza, canine influenza is not a “seasonal” infection. Infections can occur year round.

 

What are the symptoms and clinical signs of canine influenza?

 

Like influenza viruses in other species, canine influenza virus causes a flu-like illness consisting of cough, sneezing and nasal discharge (“runny nose”). Fever can also occur, but it is usually transient and rarely noticed by pet owners. There are no clinical signs that distinguish canine influenza from other respiratory infections. That is why diagnostic tests must be performed to determine the cause of respiratory infections in dogs (see below).

Virtually all dogs exposed to the canine influenza virus become infected; about 80 percent develop a flu-like illness, while another 20 percent do not become ill. Fortunately, most dogs recover within two weeks without any further health complications. However, some dogs progress to pneumonia, which is usually due to secondary bacterial infections.

While the death rate for canine influenza is very low, the secondary pneumonia can be life-threatening in some cases. There is no evidence that dogs of particular age or breed are more susceptible to developing pneumonia from canine influenza.

 

Who is susceptible to canine influenza?

 

Because canine influenza is due to a virus that is novel to the canine population, dogs lack preexisting immunity to the virus. Dogs of any breed, age or vaccination status are therefore susceptible to infection. It is likely that dogs that have recovered from infection retain immunity to re-infection for an undetermined time period, although studies have not verified for how long.

Canine influenza is most likely to spread in facilities where dogs are housed together and where there is a high turnover of dogs in and out of the facility. Dogs in shelters, boarding and training facilities, day care centers, veterinary clinics, pet stores and grooming parlors are at highest risk for exposure to the virus, especially if these facilities are located in communities where the virus is prevalent. Dogs that mostly stay at home and walk around the neighborhood are at low risk.

Canine influenza virus does not infect people, and there is no documentation that cats have become infected by exposure to dogs with canine influenza. Nor is there any evidence that the canine virus can infect birds.

 

How is canine influenza transmitted?

 

As with other respiratory pathogens, the most efficient transmission occurs by direct contact with infected dogs and by aerosols generated by coughing and sneezing. The virus can also contaminate kennel surfaces, food and water bowls, collars and leashes, and the hands and clothing of people who handle infected dogs. Fortunately, the virus is easily inactivated by washing hands, clothes and other items with soap and water.

 

How is canine influenza treated?

 

Since canine influenza is a viral infection, treatment consists mainly of supportive care while the virus runs its course, much like for human influenza. Dog owners should consult with their veterinarians if they think their dog has canine influenza. The veterinarian can determine what type of supportive care is needed, including whether antibiotics should be given for secondary bacterial infections. Dogs with pneumonia most likely require more intensive care provided in a hospital setting under the supervision of a veterinarian.

 

Is canine influenza contagious?

 

Like influenza infections in other species, canine influenza is highly contagious. Infected dogs shed virus in their respiratory secretions for 7 to 10 days, during which time the dog is contagious to other dogs. Infected dogs that do not show clinical signs are also contagious.

Once the virus has run its course, the dog is no longer contagious. Therefore, we recommend that dogs with canine influenza be isolated from other dogs for two weeks to err on the conservative side. The canine influenze virus does not cause a permanent infection.

 

How is canine influenza diagnosed?

 

Canine influenza cannot be diagnosed by clinical signs because all of the other respiratory pathogens cause similar signs of coughing, sneezing and nasal discharge. For dogs that have been ill for less than four days, veterinarians can collect swabs from the nose or throat and submit them to a diagnostic laboratory that offers a validated PCR test for canine influenza virus. The most accurate test recommended for confirmation of infection requires the collection of a small blood sample from the dog during the first week of illness, followed by collection of another sample 10 to 14 days later. The paired serum samples are submitted to a diagnostic laboratory for measurement of antibodies to CIV that were formed in response to infection.

 

Is there a vaccine for canine influenza?

 

In May 2009, the United States Department of Agriculture approved for licensure the first influenza vaccine for dogs. The vaccine was developed by Intervet/Schering Plough Animal Health Corporation.

The canine influenza vaccine contains inactivated whole virus, so there is no chance that the vaccine itself can cause respiratory infections. During tests to evaluate vaccine performance, there were no side effects or safety issues in a field trial that included more than 700 dogs ranging in age from six weeks to 10 years and representing 30 breeds.

The vaccine is intended as an aid in the control of disease associated with C.I.V. infection. Although the vaccine may not prevent infection, efficacy trials have shown that vaccination significantly reduces the severity and duration of clinical illness, including the incidence and severity of damage to the lungs. In addition, the vaccine reduces the amount of virus shed and shortens the shedding interval. This means that vaccinated dogs that become infected are less likely to have severe symptoms and are not as contagious to other dogs. These benefits are similar to those provided by influenza vaccines used in other species, including people.

The canine influenza vaccine is a “lifestyle” vaccine in that it is intended for dogs at risk for exposure to C.I.V., including those that participate in activities with many other dogs or those housed in communal facilities, particularly in communities where the virus is prevalent. Dogs that may benefit from canine influenza vaccination include those that are already receiving the kennel cough vaccine for Bordetella because the risk groups are the same.

Dog owners should consult with their veterinarian to determine whether their dog’s lifestyle includes risk for exposure to C.I.V., and the protection provided by the canine influenza vaccine. The vaccine is not yet available in veterinarians’ offices, and the price has not yet been set.

Do All Cats Moult?

Do All Cats Moult?

To a greater or lesser extent, all cats lose hair, especially in the summer months when they need less insulation from the weather. Logic dictates that long-haired cats moult more hairs than their short-haired counterparts, but this is not always the case. Some more active outdoor cats shed more hairs indoors than more sedentary house cats

Can My Cat Eat Some Of My Food Scraps?

Can My Cat Eat Some Of My Food Scraps?

There is really only one reason why owners should be wary of offering a cat human food scraps. This is because a lot such as sugar or salt that could disturb the cat’s gastric balance, to the detriment of the cat. Some meats and poultry are high in protein, and if offered in large quantities can lead to stomach upsets. It is possible to offer small scraps of food as special treats in foraging games or as rewards for good behavior.

Dog Collars: Which is Best for Your Dog?

Dog Collars: Which is Best for Your Dog?

 

Which Dog Collar is Best for Your Dog?

 

Choosing the right dog collar is one of the most important decisions you will make for your dog. This dog collar buying guide should help you make the right choice.

No collar or harness can function as a panacea for behavior problems (there are no “miracle cures”), nor can it replace the need for consistent and dedicated training. Actually, some training collars and harnesses can exacerbate physical and behavioral problems, particularly in inexperienced hands. If you are concerned about a significant behavior problem or obedience hurdle – from aggression to shoddy recalls, consider enlisting the services of a great dog trainer near you. Your trainer and your veterinarian can work together to help you choose the right tool for your dog.

Some of the tools mentioned should only be used under the tutelage of an experienced trainer. Any of these tools can be a safety risk when used inappropriately.

How To Choose A Dog Collar

Your dog may have a license tag, a microchip tag or other identifying tags. Generally, these tags are attached to a traditional/standard collar. Buckle collars can be made from nylon, leather, or other fabrics. These are the collars that many dogs wear all the time (as identification collars as opposed to training tools). If your dog always wears his buckle collar for I.D. and is ever left unsupervised, it is worthwhile to consider a “break away” or “quick release” collar.

Dogs in collars can strangle themselves during play with other dogs, in crates, on fences or gates, and in myriad other ways when running and romping – “break away” collars are designed to release under pressure in these situations. You may want a “break away” collar for your dog’s “all the time” collar and a different tool for walking your dog.

Another popular collar is the martingale collar. While these are widely recommended for sighthounds, martingales are a good collar for any dog prone to backing out of the leash. A martingale collar fits loosely when walking, but tightens if the dog tries to back out of the collar – not enough to cut off air or hurt the dog, but enough to keep him safe.

Certain collars may be recommended for medical purposes including the Elizabethan collar (the infamous “conehead”) and parasite repellant collars. Other collars may be recommended for behavioral reasons, most notably the D.A.P (Dog Appeasing Pheremone) collar which disperses a calming canine pheromone.

The final category of collars is correction collars; which includes choke collars, prong collars, shock collars, and citronella collars.

According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, “punishment (e.g. choke chains, pinch collars, and electronic collars) should not be used as a first-line or early-use treatment for behavior problems. This is due to the potential adverse effects which include but are not limited to: inhibition of learning, increased fear-related and aggressive behaviors, and injury to animals and people interacting with animals,” and lists a number of adverse physical and behavioral side effects (including but not limited to nerve damage, asphyxia, increased aggressive response, glaucoma, etc.). Refer to AVSAB’s advice on finding a good trainer if you are considering using these tools, and consult with a professional.

Halters

Another tool that should be used under the guidance of a training professional is the head halter. Two popular examples of the head halter are the Gentle Leader and Halti. These tools need to be fit properly and as importantly, desensitized well before you even begin using it on walks. Halters can be difficult for owners to fit well, and it is worth taking a few training sessions to make wearing one a comfortable, low stress experience for your dog!

Harnesses

Before getting to walking harnesses, it is important to acknowledge a very important specialty harness – the car harness. If you enjoy traveling with your dog, provide for his safety by providing him with a impact-tested safety harness for riding in the car. Not all available harnesses are tested to human impact standards. To learn more about the ones that do, check out this great Dogster forum thread.

For dogs that pull like freight trains, front clip harnesses are a great choice. With a front clip harness, the leash clips at the chest. Two of the most popular of these are the Easy Walk and SENSE-ation harness. With both choices, there are no straps around the neck, effectively eliminating stress on the delicate trachea.

Finally, there are traditional back clip harnesses. These can be good choices for small dogs, but are not generally recommended for pullers. To understand why, simply search for images of sled dog harnesses or weight pull harnesses – they are always hooked to the dog’s back. Back clip harnesses give dogs maximum leverage for pulling with all their strength.