Study of Dog Flu Will Focus on Helping Animal Shelters Limit Transmission of the Illness
The ASPCA has announced what it is calling a “groundbreaking study” of the canine influenza virus, an extremely contagious respiratory illness and one of the viral causes of so-called “kennel cough.”
Canine Influenza is a Newly Emerging Disease
Dog flu, known as the H3N8 virus, originated in horses and migrated to dogs. According to the ASPCA, it has been spreading across the United States since about 2004. The virus is easily transmitted between dogs in close contact with one another, and dogs housed in shelters are especially vulnerable.
Dr. Scott Weese of Ontario Veterinary College’s Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses notes that there is currently only a conditionally licensed vaccine available for canine influenza. Further, there is no reliable test available to veterinarians for diagnosing the disease.
Goals of the ASPCA Canine Influenza Study
The ASPCA’s three-year study of dog flu will seek to accomplish the following goals:
- Examine the spread of canine flu among shelter dogs.
- Determine whether dogs can be tested for canine influenza prior to entering the main shelter population.
- Analyze how the virus changes or mutates over time.
The ultimate goal of the study is to aid in the development, improvement and use of vaccines to prevent the disease.
How is Canine Influenza Spread?
The disease is a highly contagious respiratory virus that is spread via respiratory secretions. This means that it is usually transmitted in droplets created by coughing and sneezing. According to the ASPCA, because this is a newly emerging disease, there is no natural or vaccine-induced immunity. Thus, although dogs housed in close quarters with a lot of other dogs are the most vulnerable, all dogs are susceptible.
The study is funded by the Morris Animal Foundation and will be conducted by Dr. Miranda Spindel, ASPCA Director of Veterinary Outreach, and Dr. Gabriele Landolt of Colorado State University’s Department of Clinical Sciences.