Canine Influenza


HACKENSACK, N.J. — New Jersey’s veterinarians have been put on watch for canine influenza, a sometimes deadly virus that has been found in dogs around the nation.

State veterinarian Nancy E. Halpern sent letters to 285 veterinary practices Wednesday, telling them to be on the lookout for the virus.

At the Oradell Animal Hospital in Paramus, they already know about it. Staff there told The Record of Bergen County for Thursday’s newspapers that they had treated 16 dogs from a Rockland County, N.Y., kennel. Of them, only a Shetland sheepdog succumbed.

The flu, believed to be a form of equine virus, first turned up last year in racing greyhounds in Florida.

Since then, scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Florida have found evidence of widespread infection in racing dogs at tracks across the country and in pets in New York and Florida.

Some dogs experience only a fever and a cough and some have no symptoms, but the virus can be fatal in some dogs.

There are no reports of people sickened by the dog flu.

Sept. 27, 2005 — A newly discovered virus has killed dogs in at least seven states, and veterinarians, kennel operators and pet owners are concerned because researchers say there is no vaccine and dogs do not have immunity to the new flu.

Dr. Cynda Crawford, an immunologist at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine, said in an audio interview posted on the university Web site that the disease is only deadly in rare cases — about 10 percent in puppies and old dogs — but is of concern because it is spreading rapidly.

It is believed that the new virus may have mutated from an equine influenza strain, she said.

Like most flu viruses, it can be spread by air, as well as by contact, and the populations of dogs most at risk are those in shelters, kennels, boarding operations or other situations where a lot of dogs are housed under one roof, she said.

The disease could also spread in parks where pet owners let their dogs off the leash to socialize, vets say. Dog parks are a perfect playground for contagious diseases because when animals share toys and water dishes, they also are sharing germs.

The symptoms of the disease include coughing and sneezing, and there is concern that it could be spread in vet waiting rooms, Crawford said.

“When you bring a bunch of dogs together under one roof, if a dog happens to be infected, then the virus will spread rapidly,” she said. She compared the situation to what happens with young children in school.

As yet, there is no test for the flu that vets can administer, she said.

The virus is too new for any dogs to have developed immunity to it, so pet owners should watch their dogs carefully for any symptoms.

“The concern is that the dog population on the North American continent is wholly 100 percent susceptible,” Crawford said.

Ruth, HealthyPetNet

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