Beware Of Dog Flu

pet, health, dog
When Victor Weil noticed that his food-loving Basset Hound lost his appetite, he knew something was amiss.

"He loves food more than anything," Weil told CBS News correspondent Mika Brzezinski about his 6-year-old dog, Weilson. "That's when I knew he was really sick."

Weil added that the dog suffered a constant cough and became very lethargic. "He just put his head on his paws," Weil said.

Weilson, it turns out, had contracted a highly contagious and sometimes deadly canine flu that is spreading around the country, Brzezinski reports.

On Monday, researchers reported that the mysterious disease was an influenza strain that jumped from horses to dogs.

Such a rapid jump into a new species is rare; the flu usually evolves into new strains more gradually.

But genetic tests of sick dogs found their disease almost identical to the H3N8 influenza strain that afflicts horses, scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and University of Florida discovered. The results were published online Monday by the journal Science.

There is no evidence that it has spread to humans, or that it ever will. But at a Monday press conference, federal officials said they are monitoring the health of exposed dog owners — because a virus that jumps species once could do it again.

It was first detected at a Florida racetrack and several greyhounds died from it. Since then, it has shown up in dogs in eight other states and though the CDC says there is probably no risk of it infecting humans, they are tracking it closely, Brzezinski adds.

Weilson's doctor, Veterinarian Glenn Zeitz, says he's treated dozens of dogs suffering from this new virus. Symptoms are often mistaken for kennel cough — a common canine illness.

The difference is these dogs were much sicker. Many of these dogs were going on to pneumonia and had a high white blood cell count," Zeitz informs Brzezinski.