Veterinarians Disagree on Whether Dog Flu Has Reached Utah

Veterinarians Disagree on Whether Dog Flu Has Reached Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah veterinarians disagree on whether a new, sometimes fatal, dog flu has reached Utah.

West Bountiful veterinarian Pam Epperson said she has treated 10 cases of what she believes is canine influenza virus in the past two weeks.

Epperson, owner of Animal Care Center and Canine Rehab Center recently diagnosed her own toy poodle with the virus.

Salt Lake City veterinarian Gary Peterson has seen no cases of the disease at his Town and Country Veterinarian Hospital, and he is skeptical that dog flu has reached Utah.

The dog flu was first diagnosed in January 2004 in Florida, he said.

The virus, which reportedly crossed over from horses to greyhounds at race tracks, has more recently been found in pets, with cases documented in California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon and Washington.

It is commonly transmitted through the air between dogs in close quarters, Peterson said. The most susceptible places for a dog to catch the flu are places like kennels and dog parks.

There are no known cases of humans contracting dog flu from their pets, Peterson said.

Veterinarian Dennis Law of the Cottonwood Animal Hospital doesn't doubt that dog flu will make its way to Utah, if it isn't already here. However, he said he has not yet diagnosed dog flu in any of the animals he's examined.

Other doctors have told him a severe strain of kennel cough is going around, which the dog flu virus mimics.

"There may be cases here we've overlooked that were diagnosed as kennel cough ... but we have no concrete data to support that claim," Law said.

Utah State University extensions veterinarian Clell V. Bagley said the virus is so new that veterinarians have different impressions of the disease.

"I've not heard of any (case in Utah)," Bagley said. "I would doubt we would have any yet. But it's always possible."

Workers at some Salt Lake City kennels said they haven't seen any cases, but they're being careful.

"I'm well aware of it," said Brickyard Kennel owner Teri Dorton. "I'm watching for it."

She plans to administer antibiotics to all dogs at her facility that show signs of kennel cough.

Symptoms of kennel cough and the flu both include a runny nose, coughing and a fever. The temperature of a dog with the flu, however, will be as high as 106 degrees, Peterson said.

Epperson agreed there is only a small distinction between kennel cough and dog flu diagnoses, however, she says dogs with kennel cough will continue to be active, whereas a dog with the flu will be lethargic.

Around 5 percent of the dogs that catch canine influenza will die from it, Peterson estimated.

There is no vaccine yet for canine influenza.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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