Deadly ‘Canine Flu’ found in county
Originally published on Wednesday, September 22
By Tom Fink
Rogers County veterinarians have been seeing an aggressive and, until recently, unknown virus in dogs that has already been the cause of an estimated 25 canine deaths in and around the county.
“Within the past few weeks, we’ve had some animals come to us who were basically emaciated — completely dehydrated,” said Hooves, Paws and Claws Veterinarian Dr. Lesleigh Cash-Warren. “Their owners brought them in, assuming it to be Parvo, since the symptoms were very similar.”
Symptoms included diarrhea, vomiting and general lethargy.
“This should be a ‘Red Alert’ to all veterinarians and pet-owners in the area,” she said. “We’re dealing with something that acts like a Parvo virus, but it is indeed not Parvo — it’s not something we routinely see, and the steadfast part of it is that the animals who contract it die within 24 to 48 hours of showing clinical signs of it.”
Dr. Cash credits animal rescuer Annette King-Tucker with identifying the virus and its cure.
“About three months ago, I started getting calls from pet-owners whose dogs were showing Parvo-like symptoms — vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy — and their dogs were literally dropping dead within 24 hours of showing the symptoms,” King-Tucker said. “A few weeks ago, one of my babies — Bill, a gorgeous, totally healthy 60-pound St. Bernard — threw up, and within 24 hours, he quite literally dropped dead.”
When her Chihuahua “Chica” started showing similar symptoms, King-Tucker wasted no time, taking her to Hooves, Paws and Claws, and sending out “about 8,000” e-mail inquiries to veterinary clinics across the country.
“I sent out so many e-mails and had so many people hang up on me when I was trying to find out what this was,” King-Tucker said. “I knew that it wasn’t poisoning or Parvo and that it killed dogs within a day of them showing signs of it.”
King-Tucker’s efforts eventually paid off, when one of her e-mails elicited an informed answer.
“I got a call from a lady in Arkansas who told me that what we were seeing was Campybacteriosis, better known as ‘Canine Flu’ or ‘Dog Show Crud,’ because it had originated in dog shows on the west coast,” King-Tucker said. “She knew about it because they’d been dealing with it in Arkansas for the past two years.”
“Being a mixed animal practitioner, this particular disease is something I would normally see in cattle — I’ve never seen it in canines — ever,” Dr. Cash said. “It’s something that would never be on my differential list for something to be found in canines, so we’re very grateful for Annette’s efforts in researching it.”
King-Tucker attributes the appearance of the “Canine Flu” in Rogers County the unusual summer weather.
“We haven’t seen weather patterns like this in 40 years,” King-Tucker said. “With Oklahoma’s summer weather being similar to that of the west coast this year, conditions were ideal for this bacteria to grow and thrive here. Hopefully, we’ll get relief with the colder weather this winter — that’s what I’m believing will happen.”
A main source of the bacteria comes from fecal matter and non-chlorinated water, such as that found in ponds, streams, puddles and other stagnant or standing water.
“If a dog’s been in a kennel-type situation or anywhere they could have eaten raw or undercooked meat and trash, they’re at a higher risk,” Dr. Cash said. “What makes the ‘Canine Flu’ so dangerous is that, by the time you test the animal to determine what kind of bacteria it has, the animal could already be dead.”
Particularly susceptible to the virus are pups, older dogs, and dogs with weaker immunities, but as was evidenced by the death of King-Tucker’s St. Bernard, even larger dogs aren’t immune from the virus.
Dr. Cash said that, thus far, the virus has been restricted to canines, but could be contracted by humans and manifest itself as a stomach virus.
Thus far, no reports of felines contracting the virus have been reported to Hooves, Paws and Claws.
While the treatment for “Canine Flu” is simple and effective — rehydration and antibiotics such as Tetracycline and Erythromycin — timing is crucial.
“We’re wanting to get the word out everyone, and to share all the information we have with vets in the area,” she said. “Even if you’ve vaccinated an animal for Parvo, if you notice it not feeling well — vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy — please have them checked out — you’ve got about a 24 hour window to get them treatment, otherwise the treatment won’t help.”
For King-Tucker, though, the discovery of “Canine Flu” was a bittersweet find — at the cost of her St. Bernard.
“I’ve talked to dozens of people whose pets had contracted this same, mysterious virus that killed them, literally within 12 to 24 hours of them seeing any symptoms,” she said. “Even though I lost Bill, if his death motivated me to find out what this virus is, and how to treat it, so that I can inform other people and save maybe 100 other pets — including Chica — it was worth it.”
For more information about the “Canine Flu,” visit the Wildheart Ranch online at www.wildheartranch.org, or call Hooves, Paws and Claws at 342-1509.