Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Can my Dog Catch the Flu?

Repost of information by Mickey's Pet Supplies By Discovery Oct 5th 2012 and the ASPCA.org
With the flu season ready to hit its usual peak in November, health experts are growing increasingly concerned about people passing illnesses on to their pets.
The deadly H1N1 virus of recent years is of particular concern, with humans more likely to be the carriers and our pets the victim.
The journal Veterinary Pathology, for example, documented how an Oregon woman became severely ill with the flu and had to be hospitalized. While she was still in the hospital, her cat -- an indoor cat with no exposure to other sick people, homes, or wildlife -- died of pneumonia caused by an H1N1 infection.
Since then, researchers have identified a total of 13 cats and one dog with pandemic H1N1 infection in 2011 and 2012 that appeared to have come from humans. Pet ferrets have also been shown to be infected, and some died. All of the animals' symptoms were similar to that of humans - they rapidly develop severe respiratory disease, stop eating and some die. Serological studies suggest there is far more exposure to flu virus in cats and dogs than previously known. (As reported in an Oregon State University press release)
We worry a lot about zoonoses, the transmission of diseases from animals to people," Christiane Loehr, an associate professor in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine, said in the release. "But most people don't realize that humans can also pass diseases to animals, and this raises questions and concerns about mutations, new viral forms and evolving diseases that may potentially be zoonotic. And, of course, there is concern about the health of the animals."
"It's reasonable to assume there are many more cases of this than we know about, and we want to learn more," Loehr added. "Any time you have infection of a virus into a new species, it's a concern, a black box of uncertainty. We don't know for sure what the implications might be, but we do think this deserves more attention."
The phenomenon is called revers zoonoses. About 80-100 million households in the United States have a cat or dog, so the situation could turn into a disaster should viruses mutate to infect another species. Human influenza viruses are frequently isolated from birds and pigs. That could be because these animals, often raised for food, are tested more.
"All viruses can mutate, but the influenza virus raises special concern because it can change whole segments of its viral sequence fairly easily," Loehr said. "In terms of hosts and mutations, who's to say that the cat couldn't be the new pig? We'd just like to know more about this."
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Canine Flu

Our experts at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center answer the most commonly asked questions about canine influenza virus.
What is the Canine Flu? Canine influenza is a contagious viral infection of dogs, caused by Influenza Virus A subtype H3N8.
Did this virus come from the Bird Flu? No—the canine influenza virus is not a mutation of avian influenza, commonly known as Bird Flu. The avian flu virus of worldwide concern is a different subtype (H5N1). While both are in the same broad, general family of viruses (Orthomyxoviridae) that cause the flu in people, pigs and birds, they are not the same strain. Canine influenza is actually more closely related to the horse or equine influenza virus, and likely mutated from this strain.

What does the Canine Flu do to dogs? The canine influenza virus can cause mild to severe illness. Mild effects include a soft, moist cough with or without a low grade fever that lasts 10 to 30 days despite treatment, along with yellow/green nasal discharge if a secondary bacterial infection occurs. More severe illness can result in high grade fever as well as rapid/difficult breathing, which is usually caused by secondary pneumonia.
Is Canine Flu fatal? Typically, most infected dogs develop mild to moderate signs that resolve within 10 to 30 days without problems. As with other flu viruses, fatalities can potentially occur, but are not common and are generally due to secondary complications such as bacterial pneumonia.
Is the virus just in a few states, or is it all over? Canine Flu is currently considered to be an endemic virus, meaning that outbreaks have occurred sporadically in certain areas.  Currently, outbreaks at dog race tracks have been reported in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.  Outbreaks in pet dogs have occurred in California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, the state of Washington, and Washington, D.C. These cases occurred in animal shelters, rescue groups, pet stores, boarding kennels and veterinary clinics.
How easy is it for my dog to catch? The virus is contagious—spread via aerosolized respiratory secretions. Thus far, most outbreaks have occurred between dogs who are kept in large numbers in relatively close quarters, such as greyhounds at racing tracks. The risk of infection in a canine who does not attend dog shows or frequent kennels is fairly low. However, because this is a recently emerged disease, there is no natural or vaccine-induced immunity—so all dogs are susceptible.
I think my dog may have caught Canine Flu. How do I know for sure?
While there is currently no reliable rapid test available to veterinarians for diagnosing canine influenza, tests are available at certain diagnostic labs. For more information, contact your local veterinarian.
Can people get Canine Flu? There is no evidence to date demonstrating that the canine influenza virus can be spread from dogs to humans. It is typically uncommon for a virus to “travel” from one species of animal to another, and then become infectious among individuals of the second species with normally functioning immune systems.
What can people do to help prevent spreading Canine Flu from one dog to another?Any dog infected with Canine Flu or as any other respiratory disease should be kept away from other dogs until the illness completely resolves.
Solutions as simple as soap and water are effective disinfectants for eliminating the virus from surfaces. To help reduce the risk of spreading the virus, gloves should be worn when handling infected dogs or cleaning contaminated cages.