Reports of canine influenza spur pet stores, boarding facilities, shelters and veterinary clinics to take extra precautions.
Canine influenza, a highly contagious and sometimes deadly disease, has been found in seven states this year, raising concerns diat it could cause an epidemic in pet stores, boarding kennels, veterinary clinics, animal shelters and dog racing tracks.
The virus, a mutation of an influenza strain that affects horses, spreads most easily where dogs are housed together, but also can be transmitted on the street, from dog runs or through human interaction between sick and healthy dogs, according to researchers at the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine (Gainesville).
Infection by this newly emerging respiratory pathogen causes symptoms similar to kennel cough, and is commonly mistaken for infections caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica or parainfluenza.
All dogs, regardless of breed or age, are susceptible to this new virus because they have no naturally acquired or vaccine induced immunity.
While virtually 100 percent of dogs exposed to the virus become infected, 80 percent will show only mild clinical signs.
The milder canine influenza syndrome causes a cough that persists for 10 to 21 days, despite therapy with antibiotics and cough suppressants.
Most dogs develop a soft, moist cough, while others develop a dry cough similar to that caused by Bordetella bron-chiseptica or parainfluenza infection. Many dogs also have purulent nasal discharge and a low-grade fever.
In the more severe canine influenza syndrome, the dog may show clinical signs of pneumonia, such as a high fever and increased respiratory rate and effort.
Fatal cases of pneumonia have been documented, particularly among racing greyhounds. However, experts say that the fatality rate is low—about 1 percent to 5 percent.
The virus is spread through aerosolized respiratory secretions, contaminated objects and even by people moving back and forth between infected and uninfected dogs.
Because the virus is so contagious, pet stores, boarding kennels, shelters and veterinary clinics should use isolation protocols for any dog showing symptoms of kennel cough.
In addition, researchers believe, care takers probably can kill the virus by using routine disinfectants, such as quaternary ammoniums and 10 percent bleach solutions. There is no vaccine for canine influenza virus at this time.
Diagnosing Canine Flu
A new test allows veterinarians to accurately diagnose canine influenza.
A test similar to that used to detect avian flu and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in humans now is available to diagnose the highly contagious canine influenza virus that may well spread throughout the United States.
Developed by Genesentinel (San Diego), a subsidiary of Allerca Inc., the test uses DNA technology to rapidly and accurately detect the disease in dogs.
As of today, canine influenza has been diagnosed in 18 states, although it is presumed to be present in many more states.
Early numbers suggest that one in 100 infected dogs will die. However, some researchers have placed the figure as high as one in 10, and the number could be higher due to the mis diagnosis of the virus as kennel cough.
Symptoms generally appear two to five days after a dog is exposed to the virus and, of those infected, 20 percent show no signs of the disease.
Early diagnosis using our Genesentinel test is critical in order to quarantine and treat the infected dog. There is no vaccination available at this time.
Canine influenza produces flulike symptoms including sneezing, coughing and high fevers. Nearly 100 percent of dogs exposed to the virus become infected, regardless of age or vaccination history.
The disease is spread through the air and by physical contact. Dogs are particularly susceptible to contracting the virus in places such as shelters, kennels, boarding facilities, parks, racetracks and dog shows.