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How Real is The Dog Flu Scare

A study about a new strain of canine influenza made waves recently. Here’s why claims about it triggering a human pandemic should give you pause, says Theresa Machemer

New Delhi, November 11, 2019: Rumors are spreading that the next flu pandemic may come from humanity’s best friends: dogs. Recently, researchers reported that they identified a new strain of dog flu, called H1N1, in dogs from southern China. If H1N1 rings a sickly green bell, that might be because a pandemic of swine flu went by the same name in 2009.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the 2009 swine flu affected over 60 million people in the U.S. and killed more than 12,000. So if Snoopy has the sniffles, do you need to lock him in quarantine? Here’s everything you need to know about dog flu.A study about a new strain of canine influenza made waves recently. Here’s why claims about it triggering a human pandemic should give you pause, says Theresa Machemer. How real is the dog flu scare?

What is dog flu?

-Canine influenza virus (CIV) is the strain of the flu that infects dogs, and it’s a pretty recent phenomenon. Unlike human cases of the flu, which have been described for thousands of years, dog flu first appeared less than 20 years ago. In 2004, a greyhound at a Texas racetrack tested positive for H3N8, a strain of influenza that until then had only been seen in horses. The track was also used for dog racing, so it seems that the virus infected a horse, mutated, and then had a chance to jump across species. Another outbreak of dog flu, H3N2, appeared in Chicago in 2015 after the virus jumped from birds to dogs. That strain is currently spreading among dogs in New York City. A flu-ridden dog may have a runny nose, lose his appetite, become lethargic, and run a fever; basically, the same symptoms that a person has when they catch the flu.

Will I catch the flu from my dog?

-It’s never happened before, and despite the results of the new study, it’s very unlikely to happen anytime soon. The particles on the surface of the virus are like keys that match the distinctive “locks” on an animal’s cells. Canine influenza virus has the key to infecting dogs, and since the virus only causes an infection once it’s inside a cell, it would take a significant mutation to the key for it to infect you. (For instance, a “zombie virus” that’s a hybrid of rabies and the flu is improbable, but not impossible.) Just ask the CDC: In 2016, they used their Influenza Risk Assessment Tool to assess dog flu by characteristics such as preferred host, susceptibility to antiviral drugs, disease severity, and likelihood of human-to-human transmission. They found only a low risk of potential pandemic.

But what about the new study? Doesn’t it say “pandemic?”

-The study published in the first week of June identified a new strain of dog flu that is related to the 2009 swine flu, which is now called pandemic H1N1. Like a human has 23 chromosome pairs, a flu virus has eight gene fragments. The viruses can mix and match their genes with other strains, creating new varieties that might jump from pigs to people, as happened in 2009. This crossover happens fairly frequently because the locks on human cells are similar to the locks on pig cells. The jump from pigs to canines was unexpected, though, because their locks are more dissimilar. But only three of the new dog flu’s genetic fragments came from the 2009 strain of H1N1, and the study authors note that certain factors in that region of China, including widespread feral dogs and dog meat markets, make canine-to-human transmission of the flu more likely. (Here’s how we know the 1918 flu pandemic originated in China.) The study is also not an urgent call to action. Veterinarians collected the samples that contained H1N1 between 2013 and 2015, and so far, the dog flu has only jumped from dogs to cats. Still, the authors recommend further surveillance of the disease. According to their website, the CDC already conducts year-round surveillance of influenza in animals, and the health agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture both have protocols in place to respond in “the unlikely event that canine influenza becomes a threat to humans.”

What should I do if I think my dog has the flu?

-Vaccines against canine influenza are available, and if Spot has a cough, the first thing you should do is call your vet and see if you should set up an appointment. For the time being, try to keep him away from other dogs who might catch whatever he has. At the vet’s office, there are tests to tell whether your pooch has the flu. Once a dog is diagnosed with the flu, treatment is straightforward. They’ll need to get lots of rest and stay hydrated for the duration of the disease, which may last up to a month. And since they won’t get you sick, you can give them plenty of cuddles!

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If Your Canine is Afraid of Noises Then Probably it lacks Training

First few weeks of pet’s life are crucial for omitting the scary stuff. 

London, July 6, 2019: Fireworks  are a brilliant way to celebrate special occasions but the loud noises produced take a toll on our pets, especially dogs. All animals, domesticated and wild, are hardwired by evolution to find loud noises frightening. It is an automatic response to an unidentified threat, which may cause the animal to bolt before the brain has had time to process the information the ears are presenting. The only way in which the response can be changed or reduced is by training, desensitization, or habituation to the noise.

It’s easy to see why fireworks and thunder are so frightening to animals. They are loud, sudden, and send shock waves through the air and the ground. In technical terms, they activate the auditory startle response. You might expect that dogs, cats, and other domestic animals would be better able to tolerate the scary nature of fireworks since they are used to sudden loud noises, but many dogs and cats spend July Fourth and New Year’s Eve in a state of terror. As reported by media, a study in UK found that up to 49% of owners reported that their dogs were afraid of noises, and fireworks were the number one cause. Thunderstorms and gunshots were the next two most common issues.

But the news might not be all bad for fearful animals. We can sometimes help our pets to overcome fear, or prevent them from developing it, with training and management techniques. Dogs and cats that have been properly introduced to unexpected events of all kinds in the early part of their lives may not be worried by loud noises. The most important time for socializing dogs with people and other dogs, and for getting them used to other “scary stuff,” is first 12 weeks of life, known as the socialization period. If you have been able to do this with your pet during those first crucial weeks, then you may have no problems. If for any reason you have not done that, or your pet is frightened in spite of all your efforts, there are still a number of things you can do to help them during fireworks or thunderstorms.

Dogs and cats often feel more secure if they have a small, enclosed space to hide in when they are afraid, so providing a den can help. This can be as simple as an area between two armchairs, or a small table with a blanket draped over the top. Cats will often get under the bed or behind the sofa. For really severe cases, you may want to ask your vet to recommend medication and  behavior counselor to help with desensitizing the animal to sounds. This is not something to be done without professional guidance, as you can make things worse if you don’t do it correctly.


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