Back in January 2005, some greyhounds at a New Jersey racetrack fell inexplicably ill. Each of them showed signs and symptoms of some kind of respiratory system problems: runny noses, coughing, and fever. The outward symptoms could be wrongly identified as “kennel coughing,” an ailment triggered by the Bordetella bronchiseptica.
However, it quickly became apparent that this specific group of dogs was not struggling with a simple ailment of kennel cough. As a whole, eight of the twenty-four infected pet dogs ultimately died while experts focused on the root cause.
What they noticed was not a new disease. It was simply the flu virus.
Veterinary experts found that the pet dogs had been contaminated with the flu A virus of horse origin – this influenza came from racehorses. The race track where most dogs fell ill also happened to arrange horse racing. This specific strain of flu, H3N8, had evidently made the plunge to a different host species. The flu’s capability to do this is not rare. It is identified to exist in a variety of versions in several species, such as pigs, birds, and humans.
On the other hand, this episode was the very first time that influenza was isolated in dogs. Dogs were usually considered resistant or refractor to flu, but no longer.
That episode, the first noted of its kind, at some point spread to greyhounds in 9 different states between 2005 and 2006. Dog flu has since spread all through the USA, erratically recurring from year to year. (NCBI Source 1)
In 2018, dog influenza raised its head again: Over one hundred cases have been documented in the state of Michigan. Nearby Iowa has also documented new cases, as have a couple of states on the East Coast, which includes Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Virginia. (MLIVE Source)
It is actually created news headlines from nationwide syndicated news media, stating that an inexplicable, highly infectious disease is spreading, nourishing into the fear and worry of a new dog outbreak. (MSPCA Source)
But Dog Owners Should Not Freak Out
“There is a lot of hoopla and anxiety,” said the president of AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association), John de Jong, “It isn’t much worse than any previous period. The AVMA really wants to ensure that dog owners understand there is absolutely nothing to worry about at this point. We have seen outbreaks like this appear every so often.” (People Source)
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
“It is not much more intense than any previous period. The AVMA has to make certain that dog owners understand that there is absolutely nothing to panic about currently. We have seen episodes like this appear every once in a while.”
It is possible to feel further comfortable knowing that dog flu is highly infectious; it is rarely dangerous. It is believed to have a fatality rate of less than 10 %, and only in pups, geriatric canines, or all those with suppressed natural defenses.
The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine has made a dog flu surveillance plan to track the existence of the virus. (AHDC Source)
Canine Influenza Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of dog flu in Goldendoodles include breathing problems, lethargy, runny nose, and lack of food cravings, although individual signs and symptoms can vary from dog to dog.
It is usually spread through aerosolized and excretions allergens from the respiratory system, which means sneezes and coughs will spread it, and will “nose-to-nose” contact between pet dogs.
Dog influenza has not been found to be periodic the way that human flu is, although the weather conditions may play a part in the dispersal of it.
“This appears to be more of an issue in the planting season when pet dogs are going to recreational areas, and people are traveling with dogs. Since it is so extremely infectious,” Pamela Greenwald, DVM, a Michigan vet and state consultant for the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, said.
Greenwald documented that people traveling with their pet dogs throughout the summer season may also spread canine influenza to places it otherwise would not spread.
“There’s no doubt that with most episodes, they do have a tendency to start in suburban and urban surroundings because there is considerably more contact,” she explained.
Dog Influenza Treatment and Vaccination
Treatment plans for canine influenza are effective. There’s actually a dog flu vaccine for either strain. Additionally, there is a bivalent alternative available, which means that it protects against either strain.
Influenza vaccine for canines is usually regarded as effective and safe, but it is still somewhat new, and specialists say it is not recommended for every dog. The vaccine is known as a “lifestyle vaccine,” which means that whether your pet needs it or not may depend on a couple of elements.
“If a dog is not leaving its home, it is not exposed to other canines; I don’t know if it’s always required. However, if they’re going to go to the area or the pet groomer or if it is required, I believe it is a wise decision until we all know what is happening with these infections,” explained Greenwald.
Some dog houses are actually requiring that puppies acquire the vaccine before being housed. Even when not necessary, the vaccine can be a wise decision, mainly because boarding services with many canines nearby is usually a place exactly where flu can certainly spread.
Taking care of your dog with the flu virus is comparable to taking good care of any human who has been affected: Plenty of fluids and rest are in order.
“Pet dogs with standard supportive treatment recover from it simply like a lot of humans might get over the common cold or a moderate version of influenza that humans may fall with during the winter season,” explained de Jong.
And if your pet comes down with a case of influenza, look closely at their respiratory signs and symptoms and have him clinically diagnosed by an animal medical practitioner. This condition is highly infectious, so make sure you isolate your pet from various other pets and dogs.