New Procedure Identifies Dog Flu Cases

A lab at the University of California, Davis, has detected the canine influenza virus in dogs from three states.

A new test that employs DNA technology to provide rapid, accurate diagnosis of the highly contagious canine flu, has confirmed infections in dogs in Colorado, Florida, and the San Francisco area.

The Lucy Whittier Molecular and Diagnostic Core Facility at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine developed the new procedure, which identifies the genetic profile of the virus using polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, technology.

These results provide accurate diagnoses for the veterinarians treating these animals and demonstrate that this test is capable of detecting the virus even in dogs that have not died from the infection, said veterinary researcher Christian Leutenegger, who developed the test.

Canine influenza is an upper respiratory disease, first reported in January 2004 in racing Greyhounds at a Florida racetrack. To date, antibodies to canine influenza virus have been detected in dogs in animal shelters, rescues, pet stores, boarding kennels, and veterinary clinics in 19 states.

Dogs can also catch the virus from saliva or mucus on shared toys or food dishes. There is no evidence that canine influenza can be passed to humans.

Because this virus is just now emerging, dogs have no natural immunity to it. All dogs exposed will become infected, and about 80 percent of the infected dogs will develop symptoms. The disease appears to kill 5 to 8 percent of infected dogs.

There is currently no vaccine available for canine influenza; veterinarians treat infected dogs with supportive care so that their immune systems can fight off the disease. Antibiotics may be given to deal with secondary bacterial infections, and fluids may be administered to prevent dehydration.

UC Davis is making the test available to veterinarians for $48 per sample for canine influenza alone, or $75 per sample for a complete panel of dog respiratory diseases.

More information about canine influenza is available online at the website of UC Davis Shelter Medicine program.

Posted: March 29, 2006, 5 a.m. EST

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