Pet owners warned to be wary of dog flu

By: 
Linda Gallagher, Contributing Writer

Photo courtesy of North County Veterinary Services

Veterinarians throughout northern Michigan, like Dr. Christian Randall (above), of North Country Veterinary Services in Ellsworth, are bracing themselves for the arrival of a potentially fatal strain of influenza that can affect dogs like Jack, a 2-year-old Blue Heeler. 

 

REGION – There's all types of flu virus, formally known as influenza, in this world.

The Spanish flu, which killed thousands in 1918, swine flu, H1N1 – the list goes on and on of the variety of influenza viruses contracted by people.

Now there's a concern about our canine buddies, as a particularly dangerous type of flu is steadily making its way north – dog flu.

First seen in the United States in 2004, a type of horse flu known as equine influenza H3N8 appeared in greyhounds used as racing dogs. In September 2005, researchers at Cornell's Animal Health Diagnostic Center declared that the virus dogs were getting was a new pathogen, a mutation of the H3N8 equine influenza that had become dog-specific.

In South Korea in 2007, dogs started showing signs of another kind of flu virus, which scientists soon pinned down as a mutation of the avian bird flu, known as H3N2, which migrated to the U.S. and began infecting dogs in the Chicago area during April 2015.

That version of the dog flu soon spread into Indiana, then to Ohio, and last year, into Michigan.

As of last August, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development had reported confirmed dog flu cases in 10 southern counties across the state.

Oakland County and Macomb County reported the highest number of cases, with 42 in Oakland County and 27 in Macomb County, but sick dogs were also reported last year in Genesee, Huron, Kent, Ottawa, Livingston, St. Clair, Washtenaw and Wayne counties.

The potentially fatal canine disease is expected to spread farther into the state of Michigan this year.

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