St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS via Getty Image
When Elizabeth Estes’s dog, Ollie, started coughing last year, she didn’t think he was seriously ill at first. But then the 3-year-old Jack Russell-chihuahua mix got much worse.
“All of a sudden, he couldn’t breathe and he was coughing. It was so brutal,” says Estes, who lives in Chicago. “The dog couldn’t breathe. I mean, could not breathe — just kept coughing and coughing and coughing and gasping for air.”
Ollie, it turned out, had caught a strain of dog flu that’s relatively new to the U.S — canine influenza H3N2. The virus arrived from Korea last spring and has since caused flu outbreaks among dogs in 26 states throughout the nation.
No cases of human infections with the virus have ever been recorded, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And H3N2 causes no symptoms or only mild illness in most dogs. But it is triggering some severe cases of canine pneumonia.
The night Ollie got so sick, Estes spent the night on the floor of her steam shower with the dog, and rushed him to a veterinarian as soon as she could the next morning.
“They said, ‘When you get to the front of the building, call us because you can’t bring the dog in through the lobby. You have to come in through the back door. It’s that contagious,’ ” she says. “So I realized at that point: ‘Wait a minute. This is something a little bit more serious than I thought it was.’ “
The vet rushed the dog into intensive care. “I was petrified we were going to lose him, and pretty upset,” Estes says.
After four days of intravenous fluids, help breathing and antibiotics to prevent complications, Ollie recovered. “He’s perfectly fine now. But it was a scary and expensive endeavor — but mostly scary,” she says.
Two different strains of dog flu are known to be circulating in the United States; canine influenza H3N2 is believed to have first arrived about a year ago, where it triggered an outbreak of illness among pets in Chicago. The virus apparently was brought into the country through O’Hare International Airport by an infected dog from South Korea.
“Dogs, like people, move all around the world.” says Joseph Kinnarney, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
H3N2 has since spread to probably thousands of dogs in a number of areas throughout the U.S, Kinnarney says. Most have no symptoms. There have been reports of cats also getting sick from the infection in Korea, but so far that hasn’t been reported in the United States.
The virus seems to be spreading much more easily than H3N8, a canine flu strain that has been in the U.S. longer. One reason is that dogs infected with H3N2 remain contagious for about three weeks, even if they have no symptoms; that’s about a week longer than usual. Also, Kinnarney says, because the strain is new to the continent, U.S. dogs lack immunity to it.
Mild symptoms of the illness include a cough, loss of appetite and fatigue — these dogs recover on their own. Symptoms of severe illness — more likely in very old or very young dogs, or in dogs with other health problems — include high fevers, breathing problems and complications such as pneumonia.
Dogs that spend time around other dogs are the most likely to catch it, Kinnarney says, so pets that spend most of their time at home and rarely interact with other dogs are at low risk. He recommends that dogs that frequently come in contact with other dogs get immunized — two vaccines against H3N2 became available late last fall.
“If your dog goes to doggy day care, if your dog goes to a dog park, if your dog is traveling with you, you should get the vaccine,” he says. “It’s just not worth the risk.”
The American Veterinary Medical Association gets funding for its educational meetings from companies that make the vaccines, but no specific products are promoted at those meetings, an association spokesperson says.
Other virologists and veterinarians say many dogs probably don’t need the vaccine, especially animals that live where the virus is not circulating widely. You can check with your vet to see if there have been outbreaks in your area.
“You shouldn’t be any more worried [about this strain of dog flu] than any other upper respiratory infection,” says Ashley Gallagher, a veterinarian at the Friendship Heights Animal Hospital in Washington, D.C. “It’s essentially just another kennel-cough disease.”
Though there’s no evidence so far that people can catch the virus from the dogs, there’s always a chance the virus could mutate and become even more of a threat to dogs, says Edward Dubovi, a veterinary virologist at Cornell University who is tracking the virus. Like any flu virus, “it keeps changing,” Dubovi says.
The strain of canine influenza that swept the US last spring is infecting dogs once again. H3N2’s recent arrival in the country from Asia means American dogs have no immunity to it, and though most will be able to fight it off, the virus can be deadly for some.
It has already infected dogs from Washington to Florida to Maine, and is most likely to be contracted by dogs in shelters and those who spend a lot of time in kennels, daycares, grooming facilities, and dog parks.
Symptoms include a fever, cough, runny nose, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Some dogs can develop more serious symptoms and even succumb to the illness, but about 80 percent of dogs infected will only have a mild form.
“Every dog that coughs doesn’t have canine influenza, but dogs with canine influenza cough,” Arkansas veterinarian Jon Remer told 5 News. “They will have a bronchitis, they’ll have nasal discharge, they’ll have ocular discharge.”
The strain is highly contagious and can be spread by coming into direct contact with respiratory emissions. People who have touched sick dogs can spread the virus to other dogs.
“The virus can live a couple of days without any problem whatsoever on a hard surface,” Remer explained. “It can live on your hands for about 12 hours.”
Healthy dogs may become infected by coming into contact with contaminated food/water dishes, toys, beds, etc. All of these things should be thoroughly washed, and a person should make sure to wash hands and change clothes before touching a healthy dog or their things if they believe they have been in contact with a sick dog.
Veterinarians can test dogs for the flu and can administer a vaccine to help prevent them from catching it. In severe cases, lack of treatment can lead to pneumonia and death. However, vets aren’t positive that the vaccine, designed to fight the newer H3N2 strain, will work on the H3N8 strain, which still circulates.
If your dog shows flu-like symptoms, contact your veterinarian and make sure your dog gets plenty of fluids and rest in a comfortable place. Humans and cats are not known to contract the virus, but a sick dog must be kept away from other dogs to prevent transmission.
“It’s really no different if you’re talking about dogs or toddlers, if you think they’re sick, don’t bring them to daycare,” said Keith Poulsen of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Veterinary Medicine.
If your dog shows symptoms of flu, contact your veterinarian and make sure your dog gets plenty of fluids and rests in a comfortable place. Humans and cats are not known to contract the virus, but a sick dog must be kept away from other dogs to prevent transmission.
As dog lovers, we all already know how emotionally perceptive our dogs are. Their happiness is amplified by ours, and they are always ready to lick our tears away. But now there is science to demonstrate that dogs are the only other animal known to be able to recognize human emotions.
Dogs have been humans’ companions for over 10,000 years, so they’ve had plenty of time to get to know us. Researchers have shown that dogs are able to distinguish emotions in people by using multiple senses.
Psychologists and animal behavior experts at the universities of Lincoln and Sao Paolo teamed up to see how well dogs could understand emotions and how they are displayed. Veterinary professor Daniel Mills had 17 dogs sit in front of a screen and see images of another dog. One image showed the dog looking happy, the other angry.
A tape was also played of a dog barking, and which face the subjects looked at was noted. During excited barking, the dogs spent more time looking at the happy image. When they heard growling, the dogs tuned in on the angry face.
By using both vision and hearing, the dogs were able to assess the emotional state of the dog in front of them. A similar test was performed by showing the dogs photos of a happy/angry person, and the results were the same.
“It has been a long-standing debate whether dogs can recognize human emotions. Many dog owners report anecdotally that their pets seem highly sensitive to the moods of human family members,” Professor Mills said.
“However, there is an important difference between learning to respond appropriately to an angry voice, and recognizing a range of very different cues that go together to indicate emotional arousal in another.
“Our findings are the first to show that dogs truly recognize emotions in humans and other dogs.”
Because none of the dogs were trained to determine the moods of the individuals they were seeing on screen, this study suggests that their ability to combine such cues is inborn.
“Previous studies have indicated that dogs can differentiate between human emotions from cues such as facial expressions, but this is not the same as emotional recognition,” explained psychologist Kun Guo.
“Our study shows that dogs have the ability to integrate two different sources of sensory information into a coherent perception of emotion in both humans and dogs.
“To do so requires a system of internal categorization of emotional states.
“This cognitive ability has until now only been evidenced in primates and the capacity to do this across species only seen in humans.”
Emotional contagion, a basic building block of empathy, is when an individual spontaneously shares an emotion with another. Another recent study just proved that this exists in dogs, causing them – like humans and other primates – to mimic one another’s facial expressions.
“If you live in a group and you share with companions many interests and goals, you must understand his or her emotional state, and the only way to do that is to ‘read’ his or her behavior and facial and body expressions,” said lead author Elisabetta Palagi.
studied English and has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a focus on animal behavior, neuropsychology, and psychotherapy. She shares two pit bulls (adopted from the SPCA Serving Erie County) with her family, as well as three adopted cats with her husband, Fred. She takes pride in being a grammar enthusiast and advocating for animals, the environment, equal rights, and humanitarianism. She loves camping, cooking, taking photos, listening to psychedelic rock and indie music, and making all sorts of crafty things – from charm bracelets and paper rose bouquets to kitty condos and feral cat houses!
Melanie was sharing this profile with Fred, who is new to the Life With Dogs family, so many stories that were written by Fred from April 2014 – June 2014 will appear under Melanie’s name.