Posts Tagged ‘flu’

Canine influenza is not swine flu but should I vaccinate for it?

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

With all the talk of H1N1 in the news, I have started to get some questions on the canine influenza virus also known as N3H8 virus. And this year because a new vaccine for canine influenza came out, many of the questions are about if vaccination is important.

So what is my overall recommendation.

Don’t vaccinate for it

So from the beginning – here is what we know

  • This virus has been around since at least 2004 and probably since as early as 1999 but was originally thought to be a problem in greyhounds only.
  • At first there was a lot of fear because greyhounds can get a hemorrhagic symptom from this virus that involves bleeding into their lungs and often times death. We have since found out that this virus does not cause that problem in other breeds.
  • Most canine influenza presents as a mild kennel cough with a mild fever. A full 20-25% of dogs with canine influenza do not show any symptoms at all. Some dogs do get very sick with canine influenza and a very small percentage die of secondary lung infections. From my research it seems that canine influenza is no more of a problem then kennel cough and most dogs recover with no medical intervention. Occasionally antibiotics are needed.
  • Canine influenza is not causally passed. It usually takes 3-4 days of exposure with an infected dog for a dog to catch it. This is most likely in boarding and shelter situations.
  • Earlier this year a new vaccine for canine influenza was released on a conditional license. What this means is the USDA allowed release of this vaccine without as much testing as is normally needed to release a vaccine. While the minimal drug company studies showed that this vaccine is safe, there is no long term data on how safe this vaccine is in the long run or how effective it is.
  • From my experience, most vaccine side effects in dogs are not immediately observed.
  • The vaccine also doesn’t prevent infection with or shedding of the influenza virus (same as the vaccines for H1N1), but rather decreases the symptoms of the disease.

So we have a vaccine which we do not know much about and like most vaccines probably has side effects, which doesn’t prevent infection or transmission of influenza, for a disease that is not deadly in most dogs. Hmm…. Once again doesn’t sound so good to me.

To me the benefits of this vaccine do not outweigh the possible risks. If you haven’t read my article on dog vaccination I recommend it. I have seen more dogs suffer from vaccine side effects in my practice then I have seen dogs vaccinated with a minimal core protocol (as I recommend) come down with infectious disease.

What is worrisome is that many boarding kennels and groomers are requiring this vaccine. I believe that this vaccine should be a choice between a dog’s person and their veterinarian. I also think most boarding kennels do not realize that this vaccine does not prevent disease.

For further reading here are some good resources on canine influenza –

The Center for Food Safety and Public Health of Iowa State University

Ten thing to know about the H3N8 dog flu from the New York Times

AVMA puts out FAQ page for pet owners on H1N1

Friday, November 6th, 2009

Frequently Asked Questions about the 2009 H1N1 Flu Virus and Pets

Updated November 6, 2009

These questions and answers are based on what is currently known about the virus, and will be updated as we get new information.

Q: Can my pet get the 2009 H1N1 virus?
A:Until recently, we had no reason to believe pets could be infected with the 2009 H1N1 virus because it is very uncommon for flu viruses to jump between species. However, on October 9, 2009, a USDA laboratory confirmed 2009/H1N1 infection in a ferret. The ferret’s owner had recently been ill with the flu. Ferrets are more susceptible to infection with influenza viruses, so this was not altogether surprising. At this time, there are no reports of the 2009 H1N1 flu virus being transmitted from a ferret to a person.

On November 4, the Iowa State Veterinarian and the Iowa Department of Public Health announced that a pet cat was confirmed infected with the 2009 H1N1 flu virus. The cat’s owners were ill and the cat developed respiratory symptoms shortly afterward. The cat has recovered and there is no evidence at this time that the cat passed the virus to any people.

Pets that live indoors, especially cats, tend to have close contact with their owners – after all, that’s why we have pets – and that increases their chances of being exposed to diseases. The best advice is to always follow common sense guidelines when dealing with animals (for example, washing your hands). In addition, it’s more important than ever that pet owners keep a good eye on their pet’s health and consult a veterinarian if their pet is showing any signs of illness. Keeping your pets healthy reduces their risk of becoming ill.

Q: I’ve heard about ferrets and a cat getting the 2009 H1N1 virus. Should I get rid of my ferret or cat so my family is protected?
A:Certainly not. This is not cause for panic and extreme measures. You are much more likely to catch the flu (any type of flu, including the 2009 H1N1 flu) from an infected person than you are from an animal. So far, all of the pets infected with the 2009 H1N1 virus became infected from being around their ill owners. The main lesson here is that if you’re feeling ill and have flu-like symptoms, you should probably limit your contact with your pets (and other people, for that matter) until you are feeling better. As always, if your pet is showing signs of illness, it should be examined by a veterinarian.

Q: The 2009 H1N1 virus has infected poultry. What about my pet bird? Can it be infected?
A:We know it can infect poultry, but we don’t know if it can affect other birds (including pet birds).

Q: What symptoms would I see in my dog or cat if it developed H1N1?
A:So far, there haven’t been any reports of dogs infected with the 2009 H1N1 flu virus. Based on what’s been reported, ferrets and one cat – and probably dogs, if they can become infected with the virus – have shown signs of respiratory illness. These signs can include lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, runny nose and/or eyes, sneezing, coughing, or changes in breathing (including difficulty breathing).

Keep in mind that dogs currently have their own flu virus, the H3N8 influenza (canine influenza) virus, going around. So far, this flu virus has only been spread from dog to dog. Dogs infected with the canine influenza virus show the same symptoms as dogs with kennel cough – fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, coughing, and maybe a runny nose. For more in-depth information on canine influenza, view our canine influenza backgrounder.

Q: How serious is this disease in dogs or cats?
A:We don’t yet know. There haven’t been any reports of dogs infected with the 2009 H1N1 flu virus, and there has only been one cat confirmed to be infected. The infected cat recovered from its illness.

Q:Should I keep the people in the house who have respiratory disease away from the pet and vice-versa?
A:Until we know more about the risks of spreading the virus from person to pet, pet to pet, or pet to person, it’s a good idea to limit contact between an ill family member and other family members and pets. If your pet is ill, contact your veterinarian.

Q: Is there a vaccine that can be used for pets? Can the human H1N1 vaccine be used for pets? What about the canine influenza vaccine?
A: There is not a licensed and approved 2009 H1N1 vaccine for pets. The human H1N1 vaccine should not be used for pets. The canine influenza vaccine, which protects dogs from the H3N8 flu virus, will not protect pets against the 2009 H1N1 virus and should not be used in any species other than dogs.

Q: Someone in my home is ill and may have the 2009 H1N1 virus. Should we board our pet(s) until this person has recovered?
A: That decision is really up to you. Your pet may have already been exposed to the virus by the time the family member starts showing symptoms, so it might not be best to uproot your pet, possibly stressing them, and put them in another environment. If you’re worried your pet may become infected with the influenza virus, treat your pet like you would any other family member – follow good hygiene when you come in contact with them, and limit their exposure to ill family members.

Q: Can my pot-bellied pig get the 2009 H1N1 virus and give it to me?
A: To date, the 2009 H1N1 virus has not been reported in pot-bellied pigs. However, the possibility of human-to-pig transmission of the virus warrants extra caution by pig owners. After all, pot-bellied pigs are considered swine, and therefore may be susceptible to the virus. For the time being, a cautious approach would include all contact between your pig and anyone who is ill or has recently been exposed to an ill person. Remember that pot-bellied pigs can become ill from a number of causes, and keeping your pig healthy and free of disease helps protect your pig as well as you. If you have a pet pig and it appears ill, consult a veterinarian immediately.

Here is the direct link to the page.

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

H1N1 Swine flu confirmed in a cat (and a couple ferrets)

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Yesterday the veterinary community got the first confirmation that a cat had been officially diagnosed with H1N1 (aka swine flu) . So far this is the only case and the cat caught it from its people, not from other cats. The cat has recovered from its illness and has no permanent problems from being sick.

Here is the official release and the link to the American Veterinary Medical Association website for new releases on H1N1

At this point we do not know if this will continue to be an issue in cats or how sick cats will get with H1N1 . In fact we have very little information to go on. There is no vaccine for cats and I do not believe there will be.

H1N1 has not been documented in dogs although has been isolated in one ferret and possibly in another. One of these ferrets has died, the other one is recovering.

The vaccine for H1N1 in people does not prevent infection or transmission of H1N1, it just reduces severity, so getting vaccinated for H1N1 does not protect your cats from exposure.

My best advise at this time is to be extra careful with hand washing if you have the flu and keep stress to your cat as low as possible.

I will update you as more information becomes available.

2pm update – just found out that the ferret with confirmed H1N1 is recovering. There is another ferret who died but it is not confirmed that it is from H1N1 yet although suspected.

11/19/09 update – more cats and ferrets have come down with H1N1. There are still very few cases and most animals are recovering well. One cat has however died of suspected H1N1 infection although it has yet to be confirmed. Please follow the AVMA page linked above for further updates.

Swine flu and why we should not become dependent on vaccination and anti-virals

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

I just read a very interesting article in the Atlantic, Does Vacccine Matter? While I admit this article is three pages long, it is also one of the most comprehensive articles written on why flu vaccines may not really be helping us. If you have the time I highly recommend reading this. As many of you know one of my primary veterinary interests is in infectious disease prevention and proper vaccination and that carries over to the human world at times

Why is this an important topic?

For a few reasons.

Vaccinations have side effects and if a vaccine is not helping you it is probably hurting you. If we are doing more harm then good in vaccinating for the flu it would be good to know it.

Our government is banking on the fact that vaccination and antivirals will stop a deadly flu epidemic should be ever see one again like the flu epidemic of 1918. No true double blinded studies have been run on if the flu vaccine is helping us. Wouldn’t it be good to run these on a lesser strain of flu now so that we know if our vaccines are effective and can modify them if they are not?

In using anti-virals on non-deadly strains of flu we are creating resistance should we need them for more deadly strains. Anti-virals are also strong medicines with potential side effects including death. Once again we do not know how effective these drugs really are.