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Keeping the Recent Dog Flu Outbreak in Perspective
Monday, April 13, 2015 02:17 PM

Keeping the Recent Dog Flu Outbreak in Perspective

April 13, 2015
Updated April 16, 2015
by Barry N. Kellogg, VMD - Senior Veterinary Advisor

News outlets in the U.S. have reported Canine Influenza outbreaks in more than 30 states in the last year. The recent outbreaks in Chicago and Wisconsin are current examples. The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association cautions dog owners to be on the lookout for signs of the highly contagious disease, which can cause an acute respiratory infection which in some instances can lead to secondary pneumonia and death.

The number of dogs infected with this disease becoming seriously ill is very small (less than eight percent).

Below are answers to some commonly-asked questions about Canine Influenza:

  1. What causes Canine Flu?
    It has been previously reported that a virus labeled H3N8 which has been around for about 10 years, first occurring in Greyhounds at a track in Florida. Now another virus, an H3N2 variant, has also been isolated as a cause. While another variant of H3N2 causes the seasonal human flu outbreak, the canine variant does not appear to be contagious to people.
  2. What are the signs?
    Mild cases may be just a runny nose or persistent, gagging, cough. Only rarely does it become severe, and that is likely the result of the development of a secondary pneumonia. In that case, the signs would be characterized by severe lethargy, high fever, anorexia, and a deep, raspy cough.
  3. How is it spread?
    The virus is in the respiratory secretions of an infected dog, so close contact with an animal that is coughing or sneezing can pass the infection to a susceptible animal. In addition, contact with objects that an infected dog has played with (a ball or a toy) can also lead to infection.
  4. Can I or other pets catch it?
    The virus has not been shown or reported to infect humans; however, infection of cats has been reported in South Korea and China. To date, it has not been reported in cats in this country.
  5. Can I transmit it to my dog?
    Handling or patting an infected dog or his toys, followed by contact with your dog can lead to infection of your dog.
  6. Is this the same as Kennel Cough?
    There are several upper respiratory infectious diseases collectively called “Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease" – or CIRD – including Kennel Cough and Canine Flu. There may be many cases being diagnosed that may not actually be the Canine Flu. Several of these diseases are routinely vaccinated against as a part of the “Distemper Vaccination,” such as Parainfluenza and Adenovirus. Many owners also routinely get a Bordetella vaccination (commonly referred to as Kennel Cough Vaccine) if they frequent areas where dogs concentrate, such as a boarding kennels and dog parks.
  7. How is the official diagnosis made?
    The only real way to effectively diagnose it is by a sample (swab of secretions) sent to a diagnostic laboratory (i.e., Cornell University), which is very expensive. In addition, a positive test does not change the ultimate treatment plan for the infected animal. Therefore it is hard to justify.
  8. How is it treated?
    Not all dogs with the infection need to be treated. In fact, up to 20 percent may show no signs at all! All of the diseases in the collective Canine Respiratory Infectious Disease complex are treated the same way with what we refer to as “supportive treatment” using fluids and possibly cough suppressants while the virus runs its course. Antibiotics should be used only if there is an indication or concern about secondary bacterial involvement.
  9. Is there a vaccine for Canine Flu?
    There is a killed virus vaccine which will work in about 80 percent of those receiving it. The vaccine does not always prevent the disease, but it will likely reduce the severity. However, it is unknown whether it protects against H3N2.
  10. Should I have my dog vaccinated?
    This is a question for you and your veterinarian to decide upon. A lot depends upon your personal circumstances and your dog’s health. If the vaccine is given, it has to be two vaccinations given two weeks apart, and then there is at least seven days before it reaches full effect. Contact with other animals should be avoided until then for maximum benefit.

In the meantime, it would be wise to be diligent and report any respiratory signs or issues to your own veterinarian and avoid dog parks or areas where dogs congregate. It would also be wise to discuss the possibility of vaccination before any issues develop as it needs to be done well in advance to be effective.

LSU Shelter Medicine Program to receive $300,000 grant from The Humane Society of the United States on March 30 in New Orleans
Tuesday, March 31, 2015 04:18 PM

HSUS and HSVMA presented a check to the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine to support the school's shelter medicine program.  Jonathan Bachman/AP Images for The HSUS

BATON ROUGE—The LSU School of Veterinary Medicine’s Shelter Medicine Program will receive a $300,000 grant from The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) on March 30 as part of the 24th annual Animal Care Expo being held in New Orleans, La. A check presentation will take place on March 30 at 2:30 p.m. at the New Orleans Convention Center. Senator David Vitter and other dignitaries will be in attendance.

The LSU SVM Shelter Medicine Program was established by a grant from The HSUS in 2007; the purpose of that initial grant was to provide veterinary students with surgical and hands-on experience while also contributing to the needs of animal control facilities and animal shelters in underserved communities in Louisiana. The program has grown from having one faculty member and two students per two-week block serving six shelters to one faculty member, one fellow and an average of four students per two-week block. Now 30 shelters and four shelter programs at prisons receive assistance with their programs. This new $300,000 grant will provide funds for another full-time instructor for the program.

HSUS/HSVMA Grant to Benefit Mississippi State University Shelter Medicine
Tuesday, March 31, 2015 04:14 PM

HSUS and HSVMA presented a check to the Mississippi State University School of Veterinary Medicine to support the school's shelter medicine program, including their Mobile Veterinary Clinics.  Jonathan Bachman/AP Images for The HSUS

MISSISSIPPI STATE, Miss.—The Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine received a $300,000 grant from The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to support the college’s Mobile Veterinary Clinics.

This grant will cover many of the expenses incurred as the Mobile Veterinary Clinics travel to 18 North Mississippi animal shelters, where students, under the supervision of faculty, spay and neuter homeless animals. The program is funded solely by grants and donations.

Dr. Phil Bushby, retired Marcia Lane Endowed Chair in Humane Ethics and Animal Welfare, continues to support the program through seeking grants, working with potential donors, and inspiring MSU students to help raise money to keep the program moving forward.

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