“This is significant, because the (dog) flu may be deadly, and the vaccine will no doubt save lives,” said Dr. James Cook, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
As it is among people – canine influenza is also highly contagious among dogs, explained Dr. Michael Moyer, board member of the American Animal Hospital Association and Rosenthal Director of Shelter Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Philadelphia.
Dogs who are social with other dogs are most susceptible. Dogs who are boarded, attend day care, attend dog training classes or partake in dog sports (such as agility), dogs who visit the groomer and dogs unfortunate enough to find themselves in shelters are among the population which Moyer said that the vaccine is most suggested for.In fact the virus is so contagious that Dr. Cynda Crawford, clinical assistant professor, Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, Gainesville said veterinarians, veterinary technicians groomers, dog trainers and others in the dog business who may be handing sick dogs should probably vaccinate their own dogs. Unfortunately, you can’t always tell a dog is sick; in the first few days they show no symptoms but are still highly contagious.
When symptoms do appear, Moyer said they may include coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, lack of appetite, fever and what seems to be in dogs that “achy” feel people with the flu experience.
Canine influenza has been identified in 30 states and the District of Columbia, according to Crawford. In addition, there are hot spots around the country, which include Denver, New York City, Philadelphia and parts of Southern Florida. However, another outbreak can occur anytime, anywhere. “It’s unpredictable,” said Crawford, who with colleagues at Cornell University and the Centers for Disease Control, first discovered the disease in 2004.
Crawford did not attend the press conference, but spoke later by telephone. She explained, “We know the that influenza viruses are always changing and always adapting. We don’t know exactly the course of how the canine influenza came to be, but we know the virus adapted to dogs from equine influenza virus.”The good news is that people are not susceptible to the canine flu, and other pets; including cats, rabbits, ferrets, and birds are also safe..
One difference which Crawford discovered is how the canine flu affects dogs compared to the affects of human flu strains on people. Typically, as in people, the flu in dogs runs its course in about a week. However, some individuals may become more ill, develop pneumonia and even succumb. In dogs, Crawford said there’s little predicting which individuals will become the most sick. Older dogs and puppies with pre-existing medical problems are prone. of course. But canine influenza can also strike seemingly healthy middle-aged or younger dogs in the prime of life with no history of illness. Crawford says no one knows why seemingly healthy individual dogs are potentially so vulnerable. Other dogs, as many as 20 percent, may become infected but not get sick – so their owners never know it (though they remain contagious and innocently infect other dogs).
Unlike people who can take meds when they’re feeling ‘yucky’ at the very onset of the flu – dogs can’t tell us they’re not feeling quite right. By the time symptoms occur, there isn’t a whole lot that can be done – except supportive care to lesson some of those symptoms. According to Moyer, “That’s why prevention is the best option for social dogs.”
Like many vaccines – including the vaccine for kennel cough in dogs – the new vaccine doesn’t always prevent the flu. Some dogs will dog sick, but the illness won’t be as prolonged, and they won’t become quite so sick. At least in the clinical trial, not a single vaccinated dog died as a result of the flu. While, in general, vaccines may produce side effects, among the 746 dogs representing more than 30 breeds studies, there were no side effects, according to the manufacturer Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health.
Crawford said in general, when a vaccine for kennel cough (Bordetella) is given, a canine flu vaccine should also be considered – although those decisions are best left between veterinarian and client.
©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services