Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Canine Flu

Photo by James Stagg

A few months ago there was a lot of talk about canine influenza in Chicago. It was a real concern for pet owners in that City and all dog owners reading about it felt compassion and concern. However, in 2015 did we really think it would stay in Chicago until it was eradicated or a vaccine appeared?
Canine Influenze was first seen in my home State of Massachusetts several years ago at Greyhound race tracks. It first appeared in dogs in 2004. It seemed to stay within that population of dogs. Upper respiratory diseases aren't uncommon in groups of dogs. Racing Greyhounds are in close proximity to each other and travel to most of the same race tracks. The cause of the virus at that time was an H3N8 subtype that probably migrated from an equine subtype. 
Photo by Linda Aronson

I remember concern about it and then the subject seemed to go away until the outbreak of Canine Influenza in Chicago, which was widely reported. There was an outbreak of H3N8 on the North Shore of Massachusetts in 2014 that seemed to be associated with dogs boarded in a specific kennel. There were other cases scattered throughout Massachusetts, but not many. They were isolated but the dogs had been exposed to other dogs in places where dogs were involved in canine activities. Dogs exposed to other dogs in close proximity would likely benefit from the vaccine for H3N8 along with kennel cough vaccine.

The virus in Chicago this year was different. It was H3N2. I wasn't surprised when I heard that this isolated case occurred in a dog who had traveled to Chicago.

In 2015 I can't imagine why we would think that a virus could be confined to one place. People travel with their dogs.  We're in the middle of Summer vacation time and many of us love to travel with our four-legged companions since they are family members. How could we think that disease wouldn't travel from one place to another?  It's not exactly a vacation souvenir that we want. 

Interestingly, the disease in the Central Midwest bears a strong resemblance to one in Southeast Asia, a canine flu associated with dogs in the Korean Meat trade.  It's hard for me to type those words.  There's talk of people being interested in adopting dogs from that area of Southeast Asia. The ramifications of that is something to carefully consider because we must protect the dogs who are here.
Photo by Gary Rohde

In 2009 the USDA approved the first influenza vaccine for dogs. It can reduce the severity of the flu and damage to the lungs but it's something you need to discuss with your veterinarian.  If you're planning to travel with your dog, now is a good time to have that conversation, before you and your dog leave on that trip.

There are, I believe, other canine influenza drugs in development. It's interesting to contemplate what they will come up with, if it will be something to cover upper respiratory diseases, or vaccines specifically for various specific variations.

If this new strain of Canine Influenza has appeared in my State, it can appear in yours, too. How much risk is there in taking your dog to the local dog park? That's a question for your veterinarian. 

This is not a disease that can spread from dogs to people. But it is airborne and can easily spread from dog to dog. I didn't write about this to frighten you but simply to give you a heads-up so you are aware of the possibilities.  


Unknown said...

Very informative article and I especially like the first picture of the little terrier....

Unknown said...

This flu has already appeared in Georgia, as well, so we are alerted to the possibilities. But it is good, Darlene, to get more information and be aware of what may be done. Thank you.

Gordon Brice said...

No one likes to think that their furry.....or feathery......members of the family can be struck down by any disease, but it does happen and that is why articles such as this are of the utmost importance. As the saying be forewarned is to be forearmed. Many thanks for providing this information, Darlene. I love the photos, which I hasten to add, do not reduce the impotance of the blog details.

Darlene said...

Thank you, Anne, for our comment. And, yes, the little Terrier is adorable!

Darlene said...

I'm sorry to hear that Canine Flu has already been seen in Georgia, James. So far, there is no vaccination for the new strain. I'm waiting to see what will happen as a result of research.

Darlene said...

Thank you so much, Gordon, for your comments. This blog post was meant as a heads-up for those who may think it's not a problem now, or that it has only been confined to the Chicago area. Owners need to talk to their Veterinarian and before they travel with their pet they should talk to their veterinarian as well as research the area to which they are traveling. Forewarned is forearmed.

Rescuegal said...

Good informative article, Darlene Arden. Unfortunately, canine flu has already hit here in Kansas as well. Thanks for getting this valuable information out to your readers. Knowing is better than not knowing for sure.