Should Dog Flu strike, would you recognize it?
We’ve all heard so much about H1N1(or at least the strain that caused the recent "swine flu" pandemic) and humans, but do YOU know about H3N8 and dogs? If you have a dog, particularly one that spends time in boarding kennels or at heavily dog-populated events, you should know about this virus.
"Dog flu" (a.k.a. Canine Influenza Virus) is an upper respiratory virus making the rounds across the United States. Florida (where I live) is where it started (in a Greyhound racing kennel). But it’s moving all over ... and it can be deadly. (Here’s a recent post on DailyVet’s sister blog detailing all the key canine influenza info you should know.)
Recent reports identified this new and deadly flu strain in Virginia, New York, Colorado, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. But don’t fret unduly yet. These dogs were all from shelter or kennel environments and there’s currently little to fear for the vast majority of our house pets.
Nonetheless, some veterinarians worry that the dog flu looks so much like common "kennel cough" that many dog owners and veterinarians won’t get around to treating this virus as aggressively as they should because they mistakenly believe that "it’s just another case of kennel cough."
And it’s a fear that’s warranted. After all, dog flu’s signs include all the signs of kennel cough (a hacking, gagging cough, with or without nasal discharge), along with a high fever, which some more complicated kennel cough cases commonly experience, too. And given that there’s no rapid test for dog flu, it may take days for your veterinarian to determine that what’s really going on is a disease that requires more careful attention.
Though 95 percent of all treated dogs survive this flu, the disease has proven far more deadly in shelter environments. That’s because those who manage shelters have often taken the drastic step of euthanizing all exposed dogs. This stems the tide of the disease in a more cost-effective way that’s still humane, they argue. But it has raised the death toll in the U.S. to hundreds, maybe thousands of dogs already.
Again, there’s little to fear for your average dog-park dwelling, veterinary hospital-frequenting dog, but if your dog shows signs of impending kennel cough and has been exposed to a large group of dogs, please LET YOUR VET KNOW. And ask about the dog flu when you do. Even veterinarians need to be reminded that not all that looks like kennel cough IS kennel cough.
Dr. Patty Khuly