The Canine Flu, a new disease in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, first appeared in 2004 in racing Greyhounds in Florida as a mutation from the Equine Influenza virus. The organism is recently developed, so dogs have no natural or acquired immunity to it and are extremely susceptible to infection. The disease is contagious between dogs, but does not cause disease in horses or humans.
We have seen two cases at our hospital recently in dogs from the DFW Lab Rescue organization. These dogs had been housed in kennels and were exposed to numerous other dogs.
One was very sick when she first came to our hospital; with a fever of 105.6, severe lethargy, a persistent cough, and she refused to eat. The other patient seemed fine when he came to the hospital after being rescued, with no symptoms and a normal temperature. By the next day, however, he developed a hoarse cough that a produced a white foamy exudate and he became less energetic the next day. His temperature spiked to 103.8 overnight.
So called “kennel cough” also causes coughing, but the dogs seldom lose their appetites or develop lethargy, and only have a fever if bacteria causes a secondary infection – which is very rare.
Dogs that begin to cough, become lethargic, refuse to eat, cough up white/yellow foam and spike a fever don’t have the "kennel cough" that we’re used to, it’s more symptomatic of the Canine Flu.
I have hospitalized our cases to begin intravenous fluids, anti-inflammatory medication, and two antibiotics that are known to be effective. The medications bring down fever and prevent against a bacterial pneumonia on top of the viral disease.
The cough persists for several days, and we don’t suppress it as long as the animal continues to produce material from the lungs. The patients have regained their appetites with re-hydration and control of their fever. At that point they can receive medications orally and be monitored as they improve.
Dogs housed in kennels or other closed environments are especially susceptible.
It is wise to manage the home or kennel environment to better control the spread of the virus. Any dog suspected of being exposed or that develops a cough should be separated from other dogs and monitored closely for additional symptoms to develop. I strongly recommend that dogs developing symptoms (lethargy, loss of appetite, productive cough) be taken to a veterinary hospital for examination and treatment.
By Dr. Ed Mapes is the Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine at the Stonebridge Animal Hospital in McKinney.