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Working to stop canine flu at shelter doors

By Allison Tonini

Imagine the flu season with no antibacterial hand soaps and no flu shots. And imagine that no matter where you go, you are surrounded by people who already have the flu. Unfortunately, this world is a reality for the estimated six to eight million dogs that enter shelters every year.

Since its discovery in 2004, canine influenza virus (CIV) has become widespread in shelters across the United States. It has been nearly impossible to develop effective control strategies because it was not known whether newly admitted dogs were introducing the disease into a shelter or whether a shelter itself had a continuous presence of the disease.

Researchers from Colorado State University are studying CIV in a Morris Animal Foundation–funded study. Dr. Gabriele A. Landolt, along with fellowship training grant recipient Heidi Lee Pecoraro, are working to better understand the transmission cycle of CIV, so that they can create efficient prevention tactics for shelters.

“The canine influenza virus is an unusual flu strain because it doesn’t spread like the strains that we see in other animals and humans,” says Dr. Landolt.

The three goals of Pecoraro and Dr. Landolt’s study are to investigate what happens in shelters with CIV, to test ways to prevent CIV from entering a shelter and, finally, to explore CIV’s evolution once it is present in a shelter. To do so, workers at a number of shelters are collecting nasal swabs and blood samples from every dog at the time of admittance and at discharge. The nasal swab is a user-friendly test that, if successful, would be a quick and easy way for shelters to tell which dogs are already carrying CIV, so that the dogs could be quarantined immediately. The blood sample is a reliable reading that will show if the swab test is accurate.

Although the study is not completely finished, Pecoraro and Dr. Landolt have already reached some conclusions.

“This study is shedding a ton of light on what is really happening with canine flu,” says Dr. Landolt.

After analyzing both tests, Dr. Landolt has determined that although the swab test is convenient, it is not completely accurate. The swab test reliably shows when a dog is not carrying CIV, but it also gives a lot of false-positive readings, which would lead to dogs being placed in unnecessary quarantine.

Another exciting conclusion is that, more often than not, CIV comes from the community and doesn’t begin in the shelter. Dr. Landolt thinks that this is great news for shelters, which are oftentimes blamed for spreading CIV among dogs in a community. With this information, researchers will be able to help educate communities on how to control the disease.

Dr. Landolt is also thankful for the workers at all of the shelters for making the study successful. 

“The shelters involved in this study have done a tremendous job. Although it was a lot of additional work for them, shelter workers have done an excellent job in helping with the study,” says Dr. Landolt. “Without them this study would not have been possible.” 

Pecoraro and Dr. Landolt expect to be completely finished with the study in the next year.

Related Links

Canine Flu Symptoms
Combating Canine Flu in Shelter Dogs
Research Improves Diagnosis for Canine Influenza
Canine Influenza Virus


Posted by MAFon January 19, 2012.

Categories: Animal health, Canine health, Dog health

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