First it was people, then it was ferrets, then a cat.
Now, swine flu has been confirmed in a dog.
Like the previously-reported cat, this Bedford, New York, dog was elderly at 13 years of age. As in previous cases of pets infected with the 2009 H1N1 virus, this dog’s owner had been ill with the same strain of influenza virus.
The dog, breed unknown, presented with a cough, fever, loss of appetite and lethargy. Radiographs of the chest revealed that he had developed pneumonia. Treatment was successful and he was discharged from the hospital after 48 hours of treatment.
Interestingly, “swine” flu turns out to be a misnomer for the H1N1 strain of influenza. Its very unusual structure included genetic pieces from four strains: North American swine flu, North American avian flu, human influenza and swine influenza viruses found in Asia and Europe.
Illness in pigs experimentally infected with H1N1 is mild, and the USDA has shown that H1N1 virus particles are not present in pork following infection with the virus. Therefore, pork has been deemed safe to eat, even if the animal has been exposed to “swine” flu.
The Centers for Disease Control have officially announced that they will use 2009 H1N1 as the name for what has become known as swine flu, and the World Health Organization is calling it North American Influenza A.
Meanwhile, follow standard disease-prevention procedures: wash hands frequently, cover your cough and if you have high risk factors such as immune system suppression, avoid areas where exposure to influenza and other diseases is likely to occur.
If your pet should become ill, see your veterinarian right away.
Have a merry Christmas Eve, Dr. Randolph.