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How Dangerous is the Dog Flu Virus?

Posted on: June 30th, 2009 by

Not long ago, avian flu made international headlines. More recently, swine flu became a major concern. But have you heard of the dog flu? Unlike the avian or swine viruses, this dog virus does not attack people—it’s out to get man’s best friend.

How serious is the Dog flu virus? Could it kill your pet? Yes, there have been some fatalities associated with the dog virus (technically called the H3N8 Canine flu) but they are relatively few.

Should you be concerned about it? Maybe not. It is a particular threat to certain dogs—those with pug-like snouts, including Bulldog, Pekingese, and Shi-Tzu—because it makes it hard for the dogs to breathe.

And although it is described as “highly contagious,” mostly spreading through dog-to-dog contact in kennels and animal shelters, it’s become a serious issue in just a few areas of the country, including Florida, Philadelphia, Denver, and the Northern suburbs of New York City.

But a new vaccine could offer hope to pets at risk from the dog flu virus. According to Veterinary Practice News, just this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has granted a conditional license to Intervet/Schering-Plough for the first Canine Influenza Vaccine.

VPN says the vaccine, which must be administered by your veterinarian, has been “demonstrated to reduce the incidence and severity of lung lesions, as well as the duration of coughing…” If your dog is infected, the vaccine could also make them less contagious.

In a New York Times article, Dr. Cynda Crawford, credited with discovering the virus, explained that the dog flu virus is often mistaken for kennel cough. Both can cause coughing and gagging, but dogs with canine flu may also have high fevers and runny noses. “A few will develop pneumonia, and some of those cases will be fatal,” said Crawford, adding that antibiotics and fluids reduce the rate of fatality.

While Pets Best Insurance does not cover the Dog Flu Virus vaccine, if your veterinarian recommends it, we strongly urge you to follow the recommendation.

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