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Dog Flu Scare: Can Canine Influenza Really Cause The Next Flu Pandemic?

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A recently published research suggests that the next deadly human pandemic may come from dogs. Is there true cause to worry about canine influenza?

Next Pandemic From Dogs?

Unlike human flu, which has been documented for thousands of years, canine influenza is still rather new. In fact, it has only been around for about two decades. In a recently published study, researchers suggested that perhaps the next human pandemic might come from domestic dogs that could be concealing several viruses.

This is because when the research team travelled to southern China for their study, they found that the dogs carried up to 16 different strains of the influenza virus, including the H1N1 virus, which caused the 2009 swine flu outbreak that affected a lot of lives around the world. Researchers believe that such viruses that are dormant in domestic dogs could potentially mutate and jump to humans, thus starting the next pandemic.

Canine Influenza

Pet owners were already concerned for their dogs’ health because of canine influenza outbreaks, and the potential “pandemic” scare might have taken concerns to another level. But can canine influenza really mutate and cause such a public health crisis?

In many cases, such as the case of the 2009 swine flu outbreak, the virus from one creature may mutate and jump onto another species. For instance, the current canine influenza originated from horses and birds.

However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), canine influenza viruses pose a low threat to people. There are no records of dog to human infection anywhere in the world to date, and there is so far no evidence to suggest that it can. Just in 2016, the agency even conducted an Influenza Risk Factor Assessment to check the pandemic risk of canine influenza, and it was found to be low.

That said, viruses are constantly changing and mutating so they could, in theory, mutate in order to be passed onto humans. It is for this very reason that the World Health Organization (WHO) has a global surveillance system to detect any human infections from animal sources. For now, the canine influenza can only be passed from dog to dog or even from dog to cat, and there is no evidence that it can be passed onto humans nor that it has a pandemic potential.

As previously mentioned, there are no recorded human transmissions of canine influenza to date.

Protecting Pets

The signs of canine influenza is rather similar to influenza in humans. A dog may lose appetite, become lethargic, and have a fever and runny nose. Dog flu can be avoided by giving the dog the canine influenza vaccine beforehand, but if they don’t have it and theses symptoms occur, it’s important to take the dog to a veterinarian, and to keep him away from other pet dogs or cats to prevent transmission.

The duration of the illness may last for up to a month, and it’s important to remember that hydration and rest are key to the recuperation of the ill dog.

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