What and how high is the risk of your dog catching the Canine Flu, if you take them to a Dog Park?

Also, when, where and how did this virus start?

Thank you,

Peggy & Princess
Long Island, New York

Canine influenza was first identified in a Greyhound racing facility in Florida in January, 2004. It is suspected that equine influenza virus mutated and spread to dogs. (The ongoing swine flu pandemic is another example of influenza viruses jumping from one species to another.)

Canine influenza caused a massive hullabaloo a few years ago. Many veterinarians worried that an epizootic (the animal equivalent of an epidemic) would occur, with unknown consequences for dogs the world over.

Fortunately, the epizootic never developed, and canine influenza receded into obscurity.

Canine influenza is a highly contagious disease that causes symptoms identical to kennel cough in most dogs. In other words, most dogs that contract the virus suffer mild symptoms that include coughing. Most individuals recover completely without veterinary intervention.

However, a small minority of dogs (approximately 5% – 8%, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s canine influenza web page) suffer from fatal flu complications such as pneumonia.

At this time, canine influenza does not appear to be common. The odds of a dog contracting the disease at the dog park are probably very low.

However, influenza viruses have a knack for re-emerging after years of obscurity. It would not surprise me if, in the next several years, the dreaded epizootic were to materialize. If that happens, the dog park will be a prime place for the virus to spread.

Photo: Cooper spent some time as a racer, but he never caught the flu.

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