September 27, 2005
Dogs Face Deadly H3N8 Influenza From Horses

As humans face the growing possibility of a deadly flu pandemic our four legged friends demonstrate just how much they have in common with us. A deadly influenza strain that has jumped from horses to dogs is producing headlines similar to what we can expect to see when the next human influenza pandemic hits. The horse influenza H3N8 has mutated and jumped to dogs and killed greyhounds in 7 states.

The virus, which scientists say mutated from an influenza strain that affects horses, has killed racing greyhounds in seven states and has been found in shelters and pet shops in many places, including the New York suburbs, though the extent of its spread is unknown.


The virus is an H3N8 flu closely related to an equine flu strain. It is not related to typical human flus or to the H5N1 avian flu that has killed about 100 people in Asia.

Fido, Spot, and Rover are in danger. But humans can control the spread of a canine influenza outbreak a lot more easily than they can control a human outbreak. Humans travel greater distances and congregate together a lot more. While Rover is at home in the backyard waiting for people to come home and barking plaintively through the fence at dogs getting walked Johnnie is at grade school fighting with Billy, Bobby, Biff, and Brett on the playground and passing pathogens around in the process. His sister Jill is playing pattie cakes with Suzie and Taylor and passing along germs too. Johnnie's Dad is flying back from a business meeting in Singapore with regional manangers from Thailand, Canton, and Indonesia. Mom is at Pilates with a bunch of other women all touching the same floors, door knobs, and railings with their sweaty skin. Or maybe Mom is carrying on an affair with another law firm partner. Oh, and Mom's sister is waitressing at a busy packed restaurant to work through law school.

Humans have been exposed to this virus from horses for a long time with no reports of cross-overs into humans.

There is no evidence that it has spread to humans, or that it ever will. But at a Monday press conference, federal officials said they are monitoring the health of exposed dog owners -- because a virus that jumps species once could do it again.


"We have never been able to document a single case of human infection with this virus,'' said Ruben Donis, a researcher with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and principal author of the study.

But a virus that has managed to hop into dogs might now be closer to human compatibility. Anyone have scientific reasons to think this might be the case?

The CDC says don't panic even though it appears to kill 5% to 8% of dogs..

"We are going to monitor all cases of human exposure, but at this point there is no reason to panic," said Ruben Donis of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Donis noted that it has been known for about 40 years that the virus causes the flu in horses, with no reports of its infecting humans. Tests also indicate it is sensitive to antiviral drugs.


Although the mortality rate from the new flu virus remains unclear, so far it appears to kill 5 to 8 percent of infected dogs.

Well, what a human-centric attitude. Don't panic? Imagine a pandemic flu virus that killed 8% of humans was in the lose. Oh wait, the CDC would still say there is no reason to panic. But that only makes sense. There's never any reason to panic. Panic is a maladaptive response. But sometimes desperate measures are called for. Just stay level headed.

Since the dog flu is responsive to Tamiflu and amantadine I see this as yet another reason to stockpile Tamiflu. Fido's life might depend on it. What if a human pandemic breaks out, you stay totally healthy, but Fido comes down with a bad case of the flu? I can tell you right now that those human-centric public health authorities aren't going to let you get any Tamiflu for Spot or Scooby Do. No way. You have to stock up ahead of time if you want to protect your dog during a human flu pandemic.

Continue to walk your dog and let neighborhood packs congregate.

The C.D.C., which is tracking the disease, issued no official recommendations. But Dr. Crawford urged pet owners to continue to walk healthy dogs, visit dog runs, use boarding kennels and otherwise let animals congregate.

But, Dr. Crawford added, owners should "use common sense," including isolating dogs with any symptoms of respiratory disease for up to two weeks and alerting a veterinarian's office before taking in a sick dog for treatment.

But we need continued press coverage of this problem. Dog owners need to know when H3N8 comes to their neighborhoods.

Update: Dr. Brad Fenwick thinks the mortality rate is lower than Crawford's estimate.

Dr. Brad Fenwick, vice president for research at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, said he thinks mortality from this flu is even less than estimated by Crawford. If infected dogs are treated, mortality can be much lower, Fenwick said in a telephone interview.

From the CDC press conference: Dr. Ruben Donis:

So what about the implications for public health? We must keep in mind that this H3N8 equine influenza virus has been in horses for over 40 years. In all these years, we have never been able to document and single case of human infection with this virus. So that is something that I want everybody to take note of so to dispel, you know, major panic. That's not to say that there isn't any risk. We are going to monitor all cases of possible human exposure, but, this point, there is no reason to panic.

Dr. Cynda Crawford:

Only a minority of dogs, a small number of dogs, experience complications such as pneumonia, just like the humans infected with influenza, certain populations of humans are more prone to development of pneumonia. And it's a small number of humans compared to everyone else.

So that is the same with canine influenza virus. It's a small population of dogs that will develop complications, most likely bacterial complications and these dogs do need to be--have their treatment supervised by a veterinarian.

In addition, since not all dogs will show a clinical syndrome, showing that they have a respiratory infection, there is a minority that are infected with the virus, but will not show clinical signs to announce to everybody that I am sick. And it is very difficult to find these dogs in the dog population. And we're working on a more rapid means of identification.

If bacterial infection sets in as a complication that obviously can get treated by antibiotics. Also, Tamiflu and amantadine can slow the virus itself.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2005 September 27 02:05 PM  Dangers Natural Bio

Mr. Econotarian said at September 28, 2005 11:52 AM:

Has anyone determined the safe and effective dose of Tamiflu for dogs? (As of right now, Tamiflu is not appoved for vetinary use)

Patrick said at September 29, 2005 12:02 AM:

I'd start get worried if it jumps to pigs.

Meanwhile, I've had the uncomfortable thought that if a major, contagious virus does break out, we may only be able to deal with it because of the years of research directed at AIDS, a very uncontagious virus that people manage to spread anyway.

It's possible that in 50 years time, the AIDS epidemic would be viewed as a good thing, because otherwise we wouldn't have had the antivirals required to stop the dreadful plague of 2007.

Randall Parker said at September 29, 2005 3:58 PM:


The best antivirals against influenza are not used against HIV. The neuraminidase inhibitors Tamiflu and Relenza are aimed at a specific surface protein found in influenza viruses. So I don't see the big tie-in with HIV research. Do you have something specific in mind?

Barb Beeves said at October 2, 2005 3:39 AM:


Can you please give me the dosage for Maltese dogs using Tamiflu, And where here in Brisbane /Australia can I get Tamiflu. And how much is it please. I'd Appreciate your answer ASAP (My Malts are 6 pound and under in weight. )


Always Curious said at October 4, 2005 5:05 PM:

I just learned about this virus and it does concern me as my dog Sassy is very ill. She has a high temp,anemic,dehydrated and lathargic. She could hardly stand for a second b4 we took her to the vet 2night and after some shots and a vitiam b shot she has been able to stand for a couple mins at a time and has been movin around some. The vet said she had a bacterial infection I am just hoping that it is a form of the flu that she could of gotten from my family when we were recently sick and not this dog flu that is going around. i am not sure how many known cases of this strain of dog flu have been reported or even found out about here in Iowa but I am very concerned about her. Am not sure what help this posting can do but it does make me feel a lil better telling someone about it. I have bonded with Sassy as I did with my 2 kids. when she was 5 months old we doctored her back to health after havin a cyst on her side which makes me all the more bonded with her. So am hopin it's something simple or that what the vet did helps her so she isn't one of the 5 t0 8% that don't make it. I also need to know what to watch for so that my other dogs don't get it or at least not as bad and is there any chance that cats can get this too?

Vikki aka Always Curious

Bob Badour said at October 4, 2005 5:59 PM:

Always Curious,

The flu is a virus and not a bacterial infection. How certain is your vet about it being bacterial?

Always Curious said at October 5, 2005 12:21 AM:

The vet said he was pretty sure it was bacterial but wasn't possitive tho. However that is redundent now tho as Sassy Sue Pearson passed on to Rainbow Bridge between 12:30 am and 1:30 am on 10-5-05

Vikki aka Always Curious

Looking for answers said at October 8, 2005 6:46 PM:

My precious 5 year old Rat Terrior Dixie passed away 10-7-05 I am not certain if it was the new dog flu or not. Her symptoms was on 10-5-05 she didn't want to eat I new something was wrong. I took her to her vet they said she had a viral infection. On 10/6/05 she still did not want to eat but would drink her fluids. On 10-7-05 she was very weak could not hardly stand she was gagging up alot of mucus I took her back into the vet he said she would be fine and still that it was just a viral infection. If that was the case and there was nothing to worry about then why did she die 13 hrs. after he checked her again for the second time this week. I believe that she did die of the flu and that these vets need to have more information about this deadly flu. When I spoke with my vet this morning and told him Dixie had passed away he new nothing about this flu. I found out myself about it on the internet. But maybe my precious angel will help them figure something out so they can help other pets. I have taken her body to the OSU Animal Hospital in Columbus Ohio to get a Necroptcy done. At this point there have been no known cases in Ohio but that doesn't mean that it's not here. Hopefully they will find something out and find a cure.

distraught said at October 15, 2005 4:17 PM:

I live in Northwest Florida and had a 7 year old golden retriever that was perfectly healthy in Febuary then began coughing and vomiting. He became very weak. This was an awesome dog, very strong, and died within 3 months. The vets in my small town kept saying he had cancer, but they didn't know & did acknowledge that some of his symptoms did not add up. The sad thing is my sister got a new golden puppy that was around my dog when he was sick, and now
the puppy (1 year old) has the same symptoms and is very ill. This dog went back to its kennel before my sister realized it was sick, and the vets that care for this kennel have discovered the dog has a virus & said it is very sick. So many of the vets just don't know before it is to late.

Mary H Rose MD said at October 15, 2005 7:18 PM:

I am extremely frustrated at the stupid answers being given, or not given, about Tamiflu and amantadine in ill dogs with canine influenza. All I have been able to find is " they are not licensed for use in dogs." Will someone knowledgeable please say what is known about the safety or toxicity of these drugs in dogs, and what the probable dosage ranges are? The "not licenced" answer is patronizing, arrogant.

mary poppins said at December 20, 2010 10:59 AM:

I was worried about what I read in this article, as my dog lives mostly at my parents' ranch with a lot of horses. however, I read a couple of days ago about a type of dog collars that have some kind of intradermal slw-release drug that prevents the organism from geting the virus... I don't know tha name, but it sounded interesting, and I had my parents buy it. I'm wainting now to see the effects.

claudia said at April 6, 2011 12:50 AM:

my dog is very ill , she hasnt eaten in days she has nasal discharge and seems to me has some trouble breathing. two weeks ago my neighbor gave me a puppy and days after he developed the same symptoms but died in 3 days, after that my 16 year old son was diagnosed with the flu. now im scared because he was taking care of the sick puppy.he is taking tamiflu but he is still sick. I took my dog today to the vet and he told me that she developed distemper. he made no test on her how can you tell the difference between distemper and canine flu?

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