Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tell Me About: Dog Flu

Since it's been a long time since Toxicology Tuesday or Foreign Body Friday, I thought I'd start a series of veterinary posts about various pet diseases. I was inspired to write this post by the recent attention being given to dog flu, or more properly, Canine Influenza Virus (CIV.)

Background on influenza viruses: There are three basic classifications of influenza viruses. Class A viruses can affect many species of animals, including people. Class B and C affect humans only. While Class A viruses tend to be very species-specific (one virus affecting only one species), they are close enough in structure to each other that mutations can occur. This is the concern with swine flu and avian (bird) flu - that the virus may combine with human influenza viruses and be able to cross species lines, potentially creating a pandemic flu among people.

These viruses are named for the kinds of proteins that make up their structure. The proteins are called H and N for short, and there are many types of each protein. Thus, you get
the dreaded H1N1 of swine flu, H5N1 in avian flu, H7N7 and H3N8 in equine flu. It is the H3N8 virus which is responsible for canine flu.

Let me reassure you right from the start - canine flu, unlike swine flu or avian flu, has no public health significance. To date, there are no reported cases of dog flu affecting people. You are not at risk from contracting influenza from your dog.

Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) is a newly reported disease. The virus is a variant of an old flu bug, the Equine Influenza Virus. It was first reported in the US in racing Greyhounds on tracks in Florida and New York in 2004. A similar disease outbreak occurred in foxhounds in the UK in 2002. In both cases, the dogs were being fed horse meat, and the supposition is that this is what lead to the virus mutating and "jumping" species from horses to dogs.

While the outbreak in Britain flared up and then fizzled, the US cases have been spreading. By 2005, 20 racetracks in 11 states were reporting 'flu in the Greyhound population. Since that time, the virus has moved out from the racetracks and spread to the pet dog population. At this time, 30 states, including Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia, have reported CIV cases. Canine influenza is
considered to be enzootic (a disease that is constantly present in an animal community but only occurs in a small number of cases) in five states: Florida, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Colorado.

Because CIV is a new virus, all dogs are at risk. There is no natural immunity, and routine vaccinations to this point have not included canine influenza. One hundred percent of dogs exposed to CIV will become infected. About 20% will not show any clinical signs, and yet they will be shedding the virus (contagious) and exposing other dogs they meet.
Only dogs are affected - not cats or other pets.

Of the 80% of dogs with clinical signs of CIV, the majority will have simple upper respiratory symptoms, like any other Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD), commonly called "kennel cough." The disease starts 3 to 5 days after exposure with sneezing and nasal discharge. Lethargy and a fever may be present. About 7 to 10 days after exposure, the dog begins coughing. The cough is soft, not the honking, croup-like cough of Bordetella (bacterial cause of CIRD), but otherwise CIV is virtually impossible to distinguish from traditional "kennel cough" based only on clinical signs.

Approximately 10% of dogs that contract CIV may develop a more severe, potentially fatal, form of the disease, which manifests as pneumonia. Greyhounds in particular seem to be prone to a peracute (rapid onset) hemorrhagic pneumonia.

Canine Influenza Virus is
highly contagious. It spreads from dog to dog via direct contact at dog parks, doggy day care facilities, and pet stores that encourage dogs to visit. Like the common cold, the virus is airborne, so coughing and sneezing dogs will spread the virus at boarding kennels, grooming parlors, in veterinary clinics, and over the back fence. It will also be possible to transmit the virus from dog to dog via contaminated surfaces such as shared food and water bowls, toys, and floors - even on your hands and clothes - since the virus can survive up to 12 hours on surfaces, up to 5 hours on your clothing.

The good news is, CIV is very susceptible to all common disinfectants and good hand washing techniques. The bad news is that most dogs which are actively shedding the virus are not clinical. Let me rephrase: The coughing dog who looks sick is not shedding live virus. The virus is shed primarily by dogs in the early stages of the disease, with mild sneezing only, or in the 20% of infected dogs who show no signs at all.

As responsible pet owners, we avoid
taking our sick dogs out in public or exposing our dogs to dogs who look sick. Operators of boarding kennels, day cares, etc., refuse entry to dogs who are coughing. Veterinarians take special precautions when handling dogs with outward signs of contagious disease. BUT, no one is going to be able to predict which apparently healthy dog is infected with CIV. This means your dog may come home from a boarding kennel and develop CIV. Don't blame the kennel operator; it is likely that the infectious dog wasn't showing signs when it was admitted.

Treatment is supportive, just like when you have a cold - rest, fluids, maybe something to alleviate the symptoms. The majority of affected dogs recover within two weeks. In some cases, the cough may last 30 days. Severely ill dogs may need hospitalization with IV fluids, oxygen, and nebulization. This will require specialized isolation areas to prevent the spread of the disease to other dogs, and not all veterinary offices will be able to provide this service.

A new vaccine by Intervet/Schering-Plough was released in May with a conditional license from the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. It is given to dogs and puppies over 6 weeks of age, in a series of two injections two to four weeks apart. While the vaccine won't prevent the disease, it will lessen the severity and duration of symptoms, and will reduce the amount of virus shed and the length of time the dog is contagious.

Please talk to your veterinarian about the CIV vaccine and your dog's risk factors.


I hope you enjoyed this post on canine influenza. If you would like to see more "Tell Me About" posts, please comment here on the blog or on my Facebook page and let me know what topics you would be interested in. Remember, I am a "dog and cat" vet. While I have some basic knowledge of other pets with hair, I have a strict "No feathers, no scales" policy.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Face to Face with Fellow Face-bookers

It is rare when my weekend off coincides with the Saturday morning bird walks at CNC, so I knew today was going to be a good day when I looked at my calender. When the Cincinnati weather people were all forecasting a high of 72 degrees and low humidity levels, the day promised to be even better. But, when three local birding friends were available to meet at the Cincinnati Nature Center for a morning of walking, talking, laughing, and oh, yes - nature-watching - I was certain today would be the best day of the summer.

Darlena Graham,
yet another trip leader who must suffer the Flock and our foibles

After meeting up in the parking lot (and discussing the state of our FarmVille farms), we hit the trails,

visiting ponds,
bird walk participants at Lotus Pond
Susan, naturally, is not paying attention.

and woods.
CNC volunteers have done a great job
clearing the understory of invasive honeysuckle.

the log cabin at Matt's Pond

Farmer Nina is outstanding, by a field.

Susan gets up-close and personal with a fun guy. (Fungi. Get it?)

My three amigas - Each one is pointing to a place where she thinks she sees a bird.

left to right: Mary Ann, Nina, Susan

Lots of nature was present today, including insects like this "dog day" (annual) cicada (not to be confused with last year's irruption of periodical cicadas, aka "17 year locusts")

For the record, no, I did not throw this one on Susan.

And plants. Too beautiful to be called weeds, I prefer the term "wildflower" for these gems.



For Jim McCormac: a sedge.
Nut sedge, I think.
"Sedges have edges."

Finally, the trip list. If you think you were going to get through a post about a bird walk and NOT get a Trip List, you obviously haven't been reading this blog very long.

Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Downy Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Yellow-throated Vireo
Blue Jay
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
American Robin
Scarlet Tanager
Indigo Bunting
Northern Cardinal
Eastern Towhee
Field Sparrow
Common Grackle
American Goldfinch

In addition, there was a bird that I initially called a female Scarlet Tanager, but something about it wasn't right. In retrospect, I think it was a female Orchard Oriole.

24 species plus one question mark isn't that great of a trip list, but notice - no starlings or house sparrows, a four woodpecker day (anything over 3 woodpecker species constitutes a good day for me), and some really cool birds. Plus, the fun of being with friends topped my day.

Yes, today was definitely the best day of the summer. So far.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bagging a Big Buck

I love living in the country, with wildlife all around. I have a lot of nice neighbors, and get frequent visitors. Usually, it is something small and avian, but occasionally something larger will stop by. Last week, it was this guy - an 8 point buck, calmly and contentedly grazing under my apple trees, in broad daylight and about 15 or 20 feet from the house.
He was aware of me as I came out of the house onto my screened and glass-enclosed sun porch, but I took care not to disturb him. He kept an eye on me as I slowly crept around for a better angle.This is the way to shoot a deer - with a camera and long lens. Just look at that velvet - I longed to reach out and feel it's softness.

And here's my trophy.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thursday at Eden

Eden Park is one part of the city of Cincinnati that I know and like. I am a country girl, born and bred in small towns, and never comfortable in the urban landscapes of the world. But, on top of a hill not far from the big, scary city and overlooking the Ohio River is a little bit of heaven called Eden Park. The art museum is there, and the Playhouse in the Park, an outdoor amphitheater called Seasongood Pavillion, and Krohn Conservatory. There is also something a little special, which you will see later.
My cousin and I met there today, for some time away from our everyday lives, and a slow, peaceful visit. We live too far away from each other for casual drop-ins, and were looking for a point half-way between our rural homes for some girl time. We are both learning our new digital SLR cameras, so we decided on a visit to the conservatory to practice photography. Too bad that Krohn's was closed for major renovations! No matter, we drove on to the top of the hill, to the overview of the Ohio River and the small park with a reflecting pool, ducks, gardens, bridges and statues all ready to pose for our lenses.

the Ohio River, looking east
Kentucky on the right
sunlight on water, so difficult to capture well
Dori, photographing the perennial garden

I spend a good bit of time working on
just the right shot of this bridge. Standard angle, color photo - nice enough, but nothing special.

Same angle, in black and whiteand sepia. (Why have all these features if you don't use them?)

Different angle = more imaginative, less static.The bridge is going somewhere, and you are compelled to follow along.

Catching spots of light.

Even better - this angle shows you that the bridge is in a city, tells you more of its story.
Close-ups of details can be nice.
Even though the focus here is on the ducks, I still have the bridge in the background.

"I'm ready for my close-up."

Something new from the last time I was here is this statue of a fisherman and his cormorant, donated from a Japanese sister-city.I didn't capture his face as well as I would have liked, and the depth of field is too shallow to keep the cormorant in focus. Ah, well - better luck next time.

For me the most special part of this park is something that I remember from my childhood. We visited Cincinnati a few times as children, and while I don't remember much of those days, one things has stuck with me for all these years: the Romulus and Remus statue here atop Eden Park.
It refers to the story of the twin founders of Rome, who were raised by a wolf. This statue is a copy of the original Etruscan sculpture. It was given to the city by the Italian government in 1931, in recognition of the fact that Cincinnati, named for a Roman general Cincinnatus, was built on seven hills, just as Rome was.

The detail in this sculpture is exquisite.
This is my favorite photo of the statue.
You may all giggle now.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Bird Walks and Art Shots

Susan and I went for a bird and nature walk on Sunday at the Camp Dennison gravel pits, which has undergone a transformation from a run-down gravel pit to the up-scale "Grand Valley." Now, you have to be a resident of Indian Hill or Camp Dennison and have a super-secret, computer algorithm-embedded RIF chip in your car so that the spyware on the gate will recognize you and let you in. No low-class birders allowed without an escort! Luckily, Susan has a friend with a permit, so the three of us spent two hours walking around to see and hear what we could.

I hadn't been out birding during the whole month of July, which explains why I was eager to traipse around in the hot and steamy valley, with no shade, in the hopes of seeing or hearing a bird. One of the first things we spotted was GV's two year old Purple Martin colony.
Established only two years, and already they have 135 fledglings from this year's efforts. Wow, those are some big numbers! As well as the resident breeders and their clutches, the valley is used as a roosting and staging area, in preparation for fall migration. I couldn't believe the vast numbers of martins all around us.

As well as birds, there were plenty of other flying things around on Sunday, including this dragonfly. I am no Odonata-pro, but Susan tells me this is a saddlebag dragon.

Edit: female Widow Skimmer

By now, you may be wondering about the black and white photos. I could lie and tell you I was feeling all artsy and melodramatic, but the truth is, I
had accidentally left my camera set on "monochrome." This picture is the point when I recognized my error. Actually, I tend to think of this as a "happy accident," not a mistake, since I like the black and white dragonfly photographed in black and white.

I did wise up and switch back to color in time to grab this skipper on a teasel bloom,
but my only bird pictures were these B&Ws of a killdeer.Ansel Adams has nothing to worry about. That is, he wouldn't if he were alive.