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Understanding Canine Influenza

Posted by The SportDOG Staff

If you have been watching the news lately or reading metropolitan newspapers, you may have noticed articles about a “new” flu outbreak in dogs. In some sections of the country, veterinarians are reporting a near-panic situation around this canine flu news. Here are the facts.

Canine Influenza Virus is a relatively new germ in dogs. It was first reported in greyhounds in 2004 where it caused a significant respiratory disease at several tracks. Eventually, the virus was isolated at Cornell from a dog that had died from the condition. Since that time, it has been reported in Florida and possibly other states.

Like any new germ, the clinical signs vary from case to case and almost any dog is susceptible since they would have minimal immunity to the new virus. Typically, dogs have a hacking cough for two to three weeks that generally fails to respond to treatment. Some cases lead to secondary infection from bacteria and have a pus-like drainage from the nose. Dogs with this type of nasal discharge do respond to antibiotic treatment in most cases. These dogs often run a high temperature (104 to 106 degrees F). Some dogs develop a serious pneumonia which can prove fatal, but researchers estimate these cases to be less than five percent of the total infections.

In individual dogs, it may be difficult to distinguish this condition from typical Kennel Cough, but in large kennels, the diagnosis may be more direct. Since most dogs are susceptible, as many as 100 percent of the dogs in the kennel can be affected with as many as 75 percent becoming clinically ill. The incubation period is quite short, two to five days.

Positive diagnosis requires multiple blood samples submitted to a laboratory, usually Cornell University’s Animal health Diagnostic Center. Typical swabs of the rear of the mouth, nose and even the trachea have not been successful in isolating the virus.

Keep in mind that there are many causes of upper respiratory disease in the hunting dog. Owners and trainers should be cautious about assuming that dogs showing the signs of coughing, nasal discharge and fever have Canine Influenza.

The kennel veterinarian can provide a diagnostic work-up to insure accuracy of diagnosis and treatment. Congregations of dogs, like at a field trial or hunt test, can increase exposure to many viral agents, including Canine Influenza.

To my knowledge, this condition has not been reported in field trial or hunting dogs at this time. However, Internet chat rooms are reporting, accurately or not, that the virus has spread to the general pet population. Owners and trainers need to be aware of Canine Influenza and present cases of upper respiratory disease to the kennel veterinarian promptly.

Always check your local and state regulations related to dog training and the use of game birds on private and public property.

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