The new strain of dog flu worrying pet owners across the country has been around since 2004, when the illness was discovered at dog racing tracks. Many racing greyhounds died from contracting the illness, and while some believe those dogs contracted the flu from raw horsemeat they were fed, there still is no solid proof of its cause. In May 2005, the first reported case of a domestic dog contracting the disease was recorded.
Vets report that dogs infected with canine flu will have a moist, productive cough that ends in a gagging response. The cough will persist for one to four weeks, despite treatment with antibiotics or cough suppressants. Some dogs develop a thick, yellow discharge from the nose and could spike a high fever, between 105 and 107 degrees Fahrenheit. They become lethargic and weak, with rapid, shallow breathing, and the illness likely will progress to pneumonia.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is monitoring the disease, and a preliminary report states that the incubation period for dog flu is 2 to 5 days, initially revealing itself as a cough. It is possibly airborne and can be transmitted on inanimate objects and clothing. However, vets are warning that while the disease is dangerous, many reports (specifically on the internet) over-exaggerate the death rate and spread. Veterinarians from across the country have estimated the potential death rate at between 1 and 10 percent, with the higher percentage applying to very young, very old, or infirm dogs.
Presence of the virus in dogs can be confirmed only through blood tests performed at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Results of such blood screens take as long as two weeks, and any dogs that show symptoms of respiratory disease should be kept at home and away from other dogs for up to two weeks. Nearly 80 percent of dogs exposed to the canine flu virus will contract only a mild form of the disease that mimics kennel cough, a type of canine bronchitis that is rarely serious.