NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

June 13, 2014

Paw Prints: What you need to know about dog flu

Just a few weeks ago, Massachusetts experienced its first outbreak of canine influenza. It all started in our backyard, as an unsuspected virus in a dog day care and boarding facility.

If you own a dog, you already know that this type of environment is not uncommon to man’s best friend. Dogs tend to be social creatures. Whether they have regularly scheduled pooch play dates, or periodic kennel overnights while you are away on vacation, chances are your Fido will have interaction with other dogs.

Canine influenza virus, or Influenza A H3N8, was first identified about 10 years ago in Florida. It is believed to have mutated from the equine influenza virus, jumping from horses to dogs. Since then, outbreaks have been reported throughout the country.

Who is at risk? Potentially, any dog. However, if your Fido goes to a day care, kennel, groomer, dog park or other social dog setting, then he is more likely to become exposed to the virus.

The vast majority of Bay State dogs are immunologically naive to this virus. Their immune systems have not been exposed to the virus, and, until recently, there had been little reason to have most dogs vaccinated. Consequently, the canine population in our state is susceptible to this infection.

Fortunately for other animals, despite its equine origin, canine influenza virus only affects dogs. Cat lovers will be glad to know that Fluffy is safe from the dog flu, and that there is no feline influenza virus. Humans, horses and other pets are also not at risk from canine influenza.

Although human influenza tends to be more of a concern during the winter, this is not the case for our canine counterparts. Dog flu outbreaks are more likely to occur in any situation where dogs are in close proximity with one another, regardless of season or outdoor weather.

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