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Are dogs susceptible to bird flu?

Updated on February 18, 2012

Bird flu or avian influenza has created a scare with the outbreak of the disease in Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam and Japan. Bird flu has shaken the poultry industry in Asia. The H5N1 strain of avian flu that is endemic in most countries of Asia has now spread to some countries in Europe. This particular strain of the virus was documented to have affected other animal species. Carnivores like tigers, cats, leopards that are believed to have eaten infected birds were also affected by the virus. If other animals were infected by the H5N1 virus, are dogs, similar to the infected animals, susceptible to bird flu as well?

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What is bird flu?

Bird flu is a contagious disease of birds. The type A strain of the influenza virus affects most type of birds and poultry. While affected chickens, turkeys and ducks became ill, the wild birds that carry the virus don’t get sick thus the disease is spread to other places during the wild birds’ yearly migration. This disease has two kinds of pathogenic forms. The low pathogenic form would cause mild illness and low mortality rate. A drop in egg production, ruffled feathers are signs that the bird is infected. A high pathogenic form of the disease would mean severe illness that would have an almost 100% fatality rate.

How is bird flu transmitted?

The virus is transmitted through the droppings, saliva and nasal discharge of an infected bird. Through direct contact with a contaminated soil, water and food as well as eating uncooked infected bird, the virus can be transmitted to another animal.

Are dogs susceptible to bird flu?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that bird flu does not usually affect dogs. However, in 2003, it was documented that the H5N1 virus that surfaced in Asia has infected carnivores. A dog is a carnivore hence it is highly possible that a dog that has eaten an infected bird would be infected by the H5N1 virus too.  Bangkok’s National Institute of Animal Health has an unpublished report that indicated the possibility of dogs to be infected by bird flu. There was another report of a stray dog that died from bird flu in Azerbaiijan. This report is the first dog fatality from bird flu. Although not much information is available how the virus can be transmitted, it is believed that similar to the cats that were infected by the H5N1 virus, dogs can be infected by eating infected birds or poultry. There is no solid information on whether the dog can be infected by bird flu or not. To be on the safe side it would be best to take necessary precautions like preventing the dog from eating uncooked poultry especially in places where there is an outbreak of the disease.

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