Avian Influenza and Infection in Dogs and Cats
Dr. Sandra Norman
Dr. Kevin Dennison
In birds, influenza is very common virus in wild waterfowl worldwide. Most strains of avian influenza are low-pathogenic strains, but highly pathogenic strains are a major threat to commercial poultry production and sometimes other species, including humans.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza of the H5N1 variety has mutated and infected wild and domestic birds in Europe and Asia. Rarely, humans who have had close (live with) contact with those infected birds have developed the infection as well.
Because this is a new strain of avian influenza and it has passed from birds to people, it is feared that it will mutate again or mix with an existing human influenza virus and develop the ability to pass from person to person. This change has not occurred in the virus at this time.
Zoo cats in Thailand, domestic cats in Germany, a stone marten in Germany, and a dog in Azerbaijan have been diagnosed with the H5N1 variety of avian influenza, resulting in a few known fatal cases. Infection of other species appears uncommon and does not appear to spread easily from mammal to mammal.
Infection in these cats appears to have occurred by ingestion of infected H5N1 wild birds or by feeding uncooked infected meat to zoo animals.
Dogs may have the same problems with ingestion of infected birds although it is not clear at this time. There is concern among bird dog owners about exposure to wild birds through hunting. The virus has not been found in wild or domestic birds in North America.
Normal cooking of poultry or wild game will destroy any influenza virus.
To minimize potential threats due to influenza and other diseases, pet owners should minimize free-roaming and hunting behaviors as much as possible.
H5N1 avian influenza at this time does not appear to transmit easily from one mammal to another.
H5N1 avian influenza concerns should not be a reason for any cat owner to consider abandoning or surrendering their cats.
Testing is not available in the live animal, but dead animals can be examined for the presence of the H5N1 virus. There is a Type A influenza test which has been used for canine influenza, but it is not specific for H5N1.
There is no vaccine for this virus currently available for use in dogs, cats, birds or humans.
For animal health care information visit your family veterinarian and www.MyVNN.com.