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Are Dogs Safe From the Bird Flu?

October 15, 2019

Are Dogs Safe From the Bird Flu?

Avian influenza, also known as bird flu or H5N1, is a viral disease that most commonly affects birds. It has appeared from time to time in regions around the world. It can spread easily among wild birds, but can also infect domestic birds including chickens, turkeys, ducks, and can also affect humans and other mammals. There is a rising concern that the H5N1 virus could cause a flu pandememic.

The CDC says that dogs are not usually susceptilbe to avian influenza viruses. However, the avian influenza A (H5N1) virus that emerged in Asia in 2003 has been documented to infect other carnivore species (e.g. cats, tigers, leopards, stone martens). This has raised concern that this strain of avian influenza A (H5N1) virus may be capable of infecting dogs. An unpublished report from 2005 by The National Institute of Animal Health in Bangkok indicated that dogs could be infected with the virus, but the associated disease was not detected. Researchers tested 629 village dogs and 111 cats in the Suphan Buri district of central Thailand. Out of these, 160 dogs and 8 cats had antibodies to H5N1, indicating that they were infected with the virus or had been infected in the past.

There were news reports of a stray dog dying from bird flu (H5N1)in Azerbaiijan in March. This was the first reported death of a dog from the virus. So far, this appears to be an isolated case. The World Health Organization(WHO) states on it's website that a better understanding of the situation in animals is, however, urgently needed.

So far, there is not enough information available about H5N1 in dogs to know how infection would occur. Most human cases have come from contact with infected poultry or feces. Affected cats in Europe appear to have become infected by eating infected poultry or wild birds. It is possible dogs could be infected the same way.

If H5N1 is found in your area, (at this time H5N1 has not been found in North America), it may be a good idea to keep your dog indoors unless restrained, to prevent contact with infected birds and their feces. If you have a hunting dog, you may want to reconsider using it for retrieving downed birds. Report to the local veterinary authority any evidence of significant bird mortality, both wild and domestic. If your dog shows breathing problems or nasal discharge, consult a veterinarian. Wash animal blankets with soap or any other commercial detergent.

An equine virus has recently shown up in dogs in the U.S. It is believed that the equine influenza virus mutated to produce the canine influenza virus. This may be a slighlty higher risk for dogs than avian influenza. This inter-species re-assortment is not uncommon for type A influenza viruses. It is unclear when this transition occurred.

Symptoms of canine influenza can be similar to kennel cough and include: a persistant, soft, moist cough, and a thick nasal discharge. More severe cases may include high fevers, pneumonia, and difficulty breathing, which can also be caused by a secondary bacterial infection.

If your dog exhibits any of these symtpoms, consult your veterinarian.

So far, there has been no indication of transmission from dog to human. There is no vaccine available at this time. Treatment is usually limited to IV fluids to help keep your dog hydrated or antibiotics to help control the infection.

For more information concerning the Canine Influenza, and Avian Influenza check out:

So, is your dog safe from the bird flu? No one seems to have a solid answer one way or another at this time. A little caution may be warranted, but the choice is yours: Would you rather your prized hunting dog stay home under the bed rather than risk catching the bird flu, or be out leading the hunt, doing what he loves? The best advise we have right now is always pay close attention to your dogs health. If your dog shows signs of ill health, consult your veterinarian. This will ensure you have a healthy, happy companion for years to come.

Copyright 2006 Andrew Saari

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