And animal exploiters are to blame.
The disease began as equine influenza, or flu in horses. But because the greyhound-racing industry in Florida fed contaminated horse meat to the dogs, equine influenza crossed the species barrier and formed canine influenza. The virus was first reported in March 2003 in Florida, according to a pamphlet by Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health, makers of a canine-influenza vaccine. (Other sites say it was first discovered in 2004, but all agree it was discovered at a greyhound-racing facility in Florida.)
I learned this yesterday from my veterinarian.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention back up this claim.
The H3N8 equine influenza virus has been known to exist in horses for more than 40 years. In 2004, however, cases of an unknown respiratory illness in dogs (initially greyhounds) were reported. An investigation showed that this respiratory illness was caused by the equine influenza A H3N8 virus. Scientists believe that this virus jumped species (from horses to dogs) and has now adapted to cause illness in dogs and spread efficiently among dogs. This is now considered a new dog-specific lineage of H3N8. In September of 2005, this virus was identified by experts as "a newly emerging pathogen in the dog population" in the United States.If "H3N8" sounds confusing, think of "H1N1," the swine flu.
When I heard that the disease was created at a greyhound track and was now in 30 states, I assumed greyhound rescuers had inadvertently spread the disease. But it looks like the track owners themselves did. I don't know the intricacies of greyhound racing, but perhaps the owners shuffle dogs to and from different tracks.
From June to August of 2004, outbreaks of respiratory disease were reported at 14 tracks in 6 states (Florida, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Kansas). Between January and May of 2005, outbreaks occurred at 20 tracks in 11 states (Florida, Texas, Arkansas, Arizona, West Virginia, Kansas, Iowa, Colorado, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts).The virus is spread through direct contact of dogs (licking or nuzzling each other), through coughing or sneezing and through contaminated surfaces, clothing or hands.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 80 percent of infected dogs will show signs of symptoms, such as coughing, a nasal discharge and a low fever. Some dogs will exhibit more severe symptoms, such as a high fever and respiratory problems. My vet said 8 percent of dogs die from the disease.
I don't mean for this post to be an advertisement for Intervet/Schering-Plough. I opted to get the canine-influenza vaccine for one of my dogs, the only one I had brought in yesterday. But I'm neither advocating for or against it. Please discuss it with your vet.
This post is important, though, because canine influenza is just one more newly created disease that animal agribusiness has forced us to be concerned about. Mad cow, avian flu and swine flu are others. Not to mention the other diseases that eating high-fat, cholesterol-filled meat and dairy cause: cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, etc.
(Image courtesy of Vegaplanet.)