Thursday, November 12, 2009

Can I Get H1N1 From My Dog?

So you could have knocked me over with a feather last week when I heard a news report on a cat from Iowa that was diagnosed with H1N1. As I sat with my face inches away from my Lab leaning in for a quick kiss on the nose, I stopped in mid-smack. If a cat could get H1N1, could my cuddley, kissable, sometimes sneezes on my food pooch come down with the disease and give it to me?

Lucky for me, I work for a veterinarian. He also doubles as a columnist for our neighborhood newspaper, the Four Points News. His article this week, "Can My Dog Catch the Flu?" is reprinted below in its entirety, with Dr. Ray Bouloy's permission, of course.

Can My Dog Catch the Flu?

H1N1 is making its way across Central Texas and the United States. Several of my clients have asked, “is it possible for my dog contract the flu?” The answer is “no” and “yes”.

Thus far, H1N1 or the “swine flu” has not been reported in dogs. Last week, however, H1N1 was confirmed in a cat in Iowa. The cat contracted H1N1 from a person in the household with H1N1. The cat survived with medical care. Two ferrets have been reported to have contracted H1N1 from a positive individual in a home and both ferrets died.

Dogs can get a different strain of influenza called H3N8. This strain is not contagious to humans and is only rarely reported at this time. The virus first appeared in 2004 in racing greyhounds in Florida and a number of dogs died in this outbreak. There have been isolated outbreaks across the country, but the canine influenza doesn’t appear to be a threat at this time.

Veterinarians see many cases of flu like symptoms in dogs and cats almost every day. Most of these cases are the common forms of “kennel cough” in dogs and feline upper respiratory complex in cats. Most of these animals have been exposed to viruses or bacteria in shelters, boarding kennels, dog parks or other places animal congregate. “Kennel cough” is very common and is caused by a bacteria called Bordetella bronchoseptica. This bacteria often partners with a virus called parainfluenza to cause a “hacking” cough. The cough often sounds like your dog has a “chicken bone caught in his throat”. The dog is usually eating and not running a fever unless the bacteria moves into the lungs and causes pneumonia. Young puppies are usually most severely affected with this bacterial upper respiratory infection.

There is an effective vaccine for “kennel cough” that can be given as a spray in the nose or as an injection. I would recommend giving this vaccine prior to boarding and prior to a dog event such as a dog show or if you like to take your dog to dog parks or day care. Some vaccines are approved for once a year and some are only approved for 6 months. See your veterinarian for recommendations. If your dog contracts “kennel cough”, antibiotics may be prescribed along with medication to decrease the intensity of the cough. This bacteria is highly contagious and often other dogs that come into contact with the infected dog will contract the infection. Cats can also contract bordetella but this is not commonly diagnosed. People are not susceptible to this form of bordetella.

The canine influenza virus, or H3N8, may become more of a threat to dogs. It is reported to have a 5-8 % mortality rate. At this time, most veterinarians don’t recognize an immediate threat to our canine patients because outbreaks have been very isolated. There is a newly released vaccine for this strain of influenza for dogs and your veterinarian will be able to discuss the value of this vaccine. The vaccine is not considered a “cure” vaccine. I would consider giving to dogs traveling to large dog shows or any event with large numbers of participating dogs. Recommendations may change if the virus does start to effect larger number of dogs. There are several laboratories in the United States where samples can be sent to identify if a suspect patient has H3N8 virus.

If your dog or cat develops symptoms such as coughing, sneezing or discharge from the eyes and nose, see your veterinarian. If a fever is present or if your dog or cat is not eating, a thorough medical work-up is in order. Let’s get through this cold and flu season and say “good riddance” once and for all to H1N1.

Raymond P. Bouloy, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (canine / feline)

Hiway 620 Animal Hospital

Thanks to Dr. Bouloy for sharing his article and remember, should you suspect that your dog is sick, please seek medical attention from your family veterinarian.

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