(CNN)New cases of canine influenza have spread across several states, and veterinarians are urging vigilance.
The current outbreak has been building for a few months. In April, more than 1,000 pooches got dog flu in Chicago and other parts of the Midwest, while the Atlanta area has had 55 confirmed cases as recently as June 25.
Other positive results have been reported in various states, including Iowa, Indiana and Massachusetts, according to Cornell University. In mid-June, Minnesotasaw its first case, putting adoptions on hold at a local Humane Society.
Lee Latham, an Atlanta resident whose dog Skyler contracted canine influenza earlier this month, warned, "It's nothing to mess with, and it is expensive."
Here is what you need to know about the virus:
Two viruses -- A H3N8 and A H3N2 -- cause dog flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease only affects animals.
Experts say they have found no evidence of transmission from dogs to people.
Depends on where you live.
As a precaution, dog owners in states affected by the virus should avoid dog parks, grooming spots and other areas where pets gather.
"Be wary of public places," said Meredith Millwood, a spokesperson for Atlanta Humane Society. "Dog parks are a gamble you're taking with dogs you don't know."
The virus is prone to spread among dogs staying in kennels and shelters. Latham said he was on a trip with his partner when their kennel called them with bad news: One of their dogs had a very high fever.
The U.S. outbreak is a result of a virus closely associated with the H3N2 strain, according to Cornell University. The revelation spurred concerns because the strain, which is mostly found in Asia, had not been detected in North America until last April.
The most recent one afflicting the U.S., the H3N2 strain, is an avian flu virus that is different from its human counterpart. In addition to dogs, it affects cats, and was first reported in the United States last April. Before then, it was mostly limited to countries such as China and Thailand.
The second one, the H3N8 strain, originated in horses before it crossed over to dogs, and the first U.S. case of the virus in pups was reported in 2004.
"Scientists believe this virus jumped species (from horses to dogs) and has adapted to cause illness in dogs and spread among dogs, especially those housed in kennels and shelters," according to the CDC.
Signs of dog flu are similar to the strains of flu that affect humans. The animals cough, get a runny nose, are lethargic, lose appetite and have a fever. Dogs with severe cases can develop high fevers, around 104 ºF to 106ºF, and may be at risk of contracting pneumonia, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
One dog owner whose pet fell ill, Betsy Lamirand, told CNN affiliate WSB-TV in Atlanta that her dog "was just coughing unbelievably. His whole body was convulsing."
Latham said his dog "could not walk. We had to carry him."
Other cases may be far less obvious. William Campbell, the owner of Piedmont Bark, a doggy daycare facility in Atlanta, said, "The dog can actually carry the virus but not show any of the symptoms."
Veterinarians can test for the flu, but there is no specific treatment because canine influenza is a viral disease.
"Everybody is running to the vet right now," said Campbell.
Still, dogs can get supportive care to boost immunity. If a secondary bacterial infection is diagnosed, a veterinarian can prescribe antibiotics. Of course, medical treatment can come at a significant cost.
"It's a financial burden, a big financial burden to the tune about $1,000 a day. You're willing to pay it. It's your dog," said Mikki Funderburke to WSB-TV after her dog, Tex, contracted dog flu.
Latham said Skyler's medical bills ended up totaling $2,800.
A vaccine is also available in the United States, but only for H3N8, the CDC says. It remains unknown whether it can help prevent the newest strain -- H3N2 -- causing the latest outbreak.
Only a small percentage of dogs die. Dogs can get severely sick with pneumonia as a result of the illness. But some dogs show no symptoms at all, according to the CDC.
As for Skyler, the dog has been home since Sunday and appears to be gradually recovering. "We almost lost that dog," Latham said.
It’s a tough subject to tackle. After all, veterinarians do plenty of annoying things, too. But this particular post is all about you — well, not you, but the annoying yous among you. Not that most of you deserve this, but some of you just might! So without any further hedging, let me launch into the most annoying things pet owners do.
Need I say more? Is there anything more annoying and disrespectful than answering a phone call while your vet is delivering her state-of-your-pet’s-health address? OK, it might be worse if you dug out your phone to initiate a call midexam, but only by a smidge. They’re both just plain rude.
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I dearly love children (mine mostly, but yours can also be cool), but very young or badly behaved children are an unnecessary liability in a veterinary environment. It’s hard enough to keep pets safe — much less kids. So unless your children are old enough and/or chill enough to hang out in a vet setting, they should probably stay home.
One exception: If your pet has an emergency and you have no one to care for your kids, you are most definitely excused. We’ll understand. Call ahead and we may even assign an employee to keep tabs on them so you can concentrate on what’s wrong with your pet.
This is not the dog park. And, for the record, retractable leashes should remain in the shortest, locked position for the duration of your visit. After watching an innocent human get taken down in the lobby by an overlong retractable line, I decided there should be a law against these in vet hospitals.
I’ve never been able to fathom why some owners insist upon bringing their cats to the vet hospital without carriers. Some will use harnesses, which won’t help them when faced with a truly motivated dog. And, honestly, I’d never blame a dog for attacking a cat in a veterinary hospital environment. After all, these cats are probably giving off cornered prey vibes that some dogs can’t ignore.
Remember my post on cats in carriers? Cats are more comfortable in uncertain environments when they’re enclosed.
It drives us crazy. These clients effectively employ us to be their experts, then they put up roadblock after roadblock: No, my pet is not fat. No, my pet’s teeth are not rotting. No, he’s too old for surgery. No, her claws are not too long. It’s exasperating!
I can understand why you might (and should!) question your veterinarian about health care issues that are important to you, but why come to the vet if you’re unwilling to have an open dialogue about what your pet needs and doesn’t need?
It happens more often than you’d think. Pet owners agree to hospitalization and procedures — and later refuse to pay. Sometimes they say that they forgot their checkbooks. Other times they claim to have misunderstood the payment policy, even though there’s a sign in almost every veterinary hospital in the United States that explains payment is expected when services are rendered. I even had a client cancel her Amex payment after we saved her anemic cat’s life with a blood transfusion.
There’s no shame in admitting that you can’t medicate your difficult cat or trim your unruly dog’s toenails. Veterinarians are pet owners, too. We absolutely understand why you might not be able to manage these not-so-simple tasks.
But you’ve got to let us know if you can’t, don’t or won’t do what we say. After all, we have plenty of alternatives to offer. And there are few things more frustrating to a veterinarian than failing to treat a patient who could have been helped if only the vet were able to employ some ingenuity.
Want to give your veterinarian the best holiday gift ever? Resolve to be a more honest, open, conscientious, cat box-carrying, child care-finding, cell phone-shirking client. For my part, I promise to offer you a New Year’s post on my personal mea culpa. It’s a fair trade, don’t you think? That is, as long as I do as I say and follow through.
Rescuers of a male elephant brutally abused for 50 years in India claim that after the chains and spikes were removed from elephant Raju's legs, tears streamed down his face, but were the tears due to an emotional outburst?
Certain animals may weep out of sorrow, similar to human baby cries, say animal behavior experts. In this case, the tears appear to reflect Raju's astonishment and relief.
"The team were astounded to see tears roll down his face during the rescue," Pooja Binepal from Wildlife SOS UK, which transferred the elephant to a sanctuary, told The Independent. "We knew in our hearts he realized he was being freed."
This isn't the first time an elephant has been seen weeping after a traumatic event. Last year, a newborn elephant calf at Shendiaoshan Wild Animal Nature Reserve in eastern China reportedly cried inconsolably for five hours after being stomped on by his mother that then rejected the little elephant. The calf, named Zhuang-zhuang, was later "adopted" by a keeper, according to the news site Metro.
Elephant tears, as for human ones, often appear linked to feelings of sorrow.
"Some mammals may cry due to loss of contact comfort," animal behaviorist Marc Bekoff explained to Discovery News. (Bekoff wrote about the topic, himself, in this blog.)
"It could be a hard-wired response to not feeling touch," added Bekoff, former professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who, with primatologist Jane Goodall, co-founded the organization Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals: Citizens for Responsible Animal Behavior Studies.
For elephant calves and human infants, crying is probably more out of stress than sorrow, he said. "But stress is an emotion," continued Bekoff, who is author of "Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed."
He pointed out that scientific studies have proven that chicken, mice and rats display empathy -- feeling another's pain -- which is an even more complex phenomenon. For crying, the animal would have to be of a social nature, possess eye anatomy similar to ours, and have brain structure for processing emotions.
Dogs are among the most social animals, but scientists and owners have yet to report on a depressed dog crying its eyes out.
"However, dogs and other animals certainly can suffer and may recognize suffering in others," said Brian Hare, an associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University who co-founded the dog analysis tool "Dognition" that any owner can use.
In a questionnaire on the Dognition site, 72 percent of owners reported that their dog suffers from mild to extreme separation anxiety, likely similar to what the elephant calf felt.
"This anxiety is manifested as whimpering, whining and howling when the dog is separated from a loved one," Hare said. "So dogs may not cry with tears, but they certainly can cry with vocalizations to say they are anxious, stressed or lonely."
Over half of the owners also reported that their dogs actively try to comfort or console them when they are sad and weeping, so the dogs seem to understand the person is in distress.
At such times, a dog might rest its head on the owner's lap or nuzzle the individual. In each case, the dog is making comforting physical contact -- the same kind that a human baby or elephant calf is hard-wired to crave. Human hugging might be akin to a dog nuzzle or a mother elephant using its trunk to caress a calf.
Writer and naturalist Virginia Morell told Discovery News, "Not so long ago, people thought that we were the only animals that could laugh, but now we know that rats and dogs and chimpanzees do as well. Laughter, in fact, may be a universal emotion in all mammals. If so, why not sorrow?"
Or why not tears of relief in Raju's case, after 50 years of reported beatings, starvation and other torture? Raju is now at the Elephant Conservation and Care Center at Mathura, India, where he is being treated for his many wounds and abscesses and is receiving food to help restore him to a healthy weight.
No fleas or ticks for Mr. Whiskers
They're so tiny, you can barely see them. But there's nothing invisible about their pestiness: They suck blood, make your pet (and you) itch like crazy, and can transmit diseases to pets and people. So you're forgiven if your reaction to fleas and ticks is to want to annihilate them with the most powerful weapon handy. Though these two insects cause different health problems, both bugs can be knocked out with the same pesticide products. But how do you choose—and how safe are these big guns?
Ticks threaten pets and people in every state and transmit or cause more than a dozen diseases, including anaplasmosis, anemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and the bogeyman of the moment (with good reason), Lyme disease. These days, ticks are a year-round problem. "Some ticks can survive under a blanket of snow," says Michael Dryden, DVM, PhD, distinguished professor of veterinary parasitology at Kansas State University.
Fleas, meanwhile, can spread murine typhus and bartonellosis (both are bacterial diseases) and cause flea allergy dermatitis, which can bedevil the heck out of your pet and household. A passel of fleas can make cats and dogs—especially puppies—anemic, because the little bloodsuckers sponge up 15 times their own weight in your pet's vital bodily fluids. Animals especially sensitive to bites may develop flea allergy dermatitis, a skin condition that causes itchy "hot spots" and hair loss. When finished with the animals, fleas often make the leap to humans, wrecking the mood in the house with a thousand little bites.
Flea and tick remedies used to be primarily messy dips, sprays, and powders, which were inconvenient for pet owners to use. Some products led to serious problems—even death—in some animals, causing the EPA to act in 2010. The new generation of products includes both topical (top spot) and oral formulations that are much more convenient and very safe if the label directions are followed carefully. "The newer top spot products are effective and easy, and there's virtually no mess," says Ann Hohenhaus, DVM, a staff doctor at the Animal Medical Center in New York City. The liquids come in applicators; once a month, you squirt the stuff on the skin between your pet's shoulder blades. If your pet doesn't tolerate the squirt-on formula, try pills, a different topical, or one of the new flea collars with prolonged effects.
He or she will know which products are safe and work best in your area. Select EPA- or FDA-registered products and follow the label instructions to the letter, says Dr. Dryden.
Don't be fooled into thinking winter weather will freeze out the buggers.
The first speed refers to how fast the product kills pests on your pet now; "residual speed" means how long it kills new pests—usually 3 or 4 weeks.
"Topicals must reach the skin. If you just apply it on the topcoat, it won't kill fleas," says Dr. Dryden. Part the hair until you see the dog's skin, then apply to the skin.
Use a flea comb, says Jean Hofve, DVM, a holistic veterinarian in Denver, and drown any fleas you comb off in soapy water.