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Caregiving

The highly contagious respiratory infection started in Florida.

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 23, 2013 at 02:37 PM

Parents worry about H1N1.

For pet owners, the rising threat is H3N8 - dog flu - a highly contagious, potentially deadly respiratory infection. It started at a Florida greyhound track and has spread to 30 states. As of last year, 1,079 cases had been confirmed.

H3N8 is a type A influenza. Researchers say it began with horses and spread to the dogs. There is no evidence it can spread to people.

Virtually all dogs exposed to the virus become infected, though only about 80 percent will develop symptoms, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. As many as 5 percent of infected dogs die.

The veterinarian who helped identify it, Cynda Crawford, an assistant professor in the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine, has studied the illness since her original research with the racing greyhounds in 2004. The dogs had flu-like symptoms - runny noses, coughs and fever. Some caught pneumonia and died.

The virus spreads in places where dogs congregate or share the same cages and bowls.

The AVMA recommends that people who work with dogs in shelters, kennels and dog day care centers wash their hands with soap and water when the arrive at the facility, before and after handling any dog and after cleaning cages. The dog flu virus is easily killed with disinfectants.

Dog owners can protect their dogs by washing or disinfecting their hands after handling another dog. They can also get their dogs vaccinated, though veterinarians don't recommend this for dogs that don't come in contact with other dogs.

Crawford will be featured in an American Animal Hospital Association Web conference on canine influenza Oct. 22.

For more information, go to www.aahanet.org.


Reporter Lindsay Peterson can be reached at (813) 259-7834.

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