Dog owners warned of spreading canine virus | Dog owners warned of spreading canine virus News Staff

Dog owners are being warned to be watchful of their pets, as health experts raise the alarm over a new canine flu that will likely make its way to Canada from the United States.

The H3N8 virus has been known to infect horses for at least four decades, but recently made the scientifically puzzling leap from equines to canines.

“Our concern is that it is a new and novel virus that has not been seen before,” veterinarian Dr. Tim Zaharchuk told CTV News Toronto.

Since it was first discovered in greyhounds at a Florida racetrack back in 2004, the virus has sickened dogs at dozens of racetracks across the U.S.

It was first thought to be restricted to the racing breeds, but has since been found in domestic dogs. Reports of the disease have been registered as far afield as New York and Massachusetts.

Though there have been no reports of the disease among people who had contact with the sick dogs, experts aren’t sure about the risk of a human outbreak.

“Given the ‘safety’ track record of the equine virus in humans, I think it would be a stretch to really raise the level of alarm in any way,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control molecular genetics chief Ruben Donis said in a study rushed to publication this week.

“It may actually pose even a lesser risk for humans,” he noted. “So the bottom line is we don’t know. And the bottom line is we will investigate.”

Health experts are always wary when a novel virus presents itself, as the lack of immunity to never-before-seen virus strains poses a risk of pandemic.

Although there is no present evidence of a threat to human health, experts are tracking the new virus carefully. And, wary that viruses have little respect for international borders, Canadians are being told to expect its arrival here sooner or later.

Dr. Tanya Stirtzinger, a clinical pathologist, says there are no confirmed cases in Canada. However, there has been some “indirect” evidence of its presence in this country.

“We’ve had some cases of pneumonias in dogs that did not appear to be caused by agents that we are aware of,” Stirtzinger told CTV’s Canada AM. “And so it may be here, but certainly no confirmed cases.”

Zaharchuk said that Canadians who take their pets south for the winter could provide an entrance for the canine flu into this country.

“Snowbirds — that’s a logical source of the infection. Transporting dogs south, (then bringing them back from) Florida, they can bring it up without knowing.”

Symptoms — all of which should prompt vigilant dog owners to take their pet to the vet — include a dry cough, fever and runny nose. Some dogs can contract the virus and show no symptoms whatsoever.

“The most important thing that you will notice is the cough,” said Stirtzinger. “They will start to cough almost uncontrollably, and they often will bring up phlegm, similar to humans.”

No vaccine is available yet. However, because this virus has been present in horses, Stirtzinger said a potential vaccine could likely be prepared quickly.

The virus can be spread among animals that live together, as well as through human contact and interaction with other dogs on the street.

But animal experts told CTV that pet owners should not stop walking their animals or using animal kennels.

As of Wednesday, the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association plans to begin distributing information about the new canine influenza to vets across the province.

It is not known exactly how dangerous the disease is to dogs, although it is believed to be fatal in between five and eight per cent of cases.

Prepared with a report from CTV’s Todd Battis

© 2005 Bell Globemedia Inc. All Rights Reserved

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Please follow and like us:
Visit Us
Follow Me
Follow by Email

Follow hart 1-800-hart:
call HART crazy .. but you either like something or you don't - HART likes everything and everybody! Well, except Asparagus.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *