The Dog Flu Epidemic: The Real Truth
Holistic Care / By Dana Scott
Have you taken your dog for a romp in the local park, only to be stopped in your tracks by a sign warning dog owners to enter at their own risk because of a disease striking down dogs at epidemic proportions?
If you live in the Chicago area, you’ve probably seen these signs:
CHICAGO PARK DISTRICT NOTICE:
CANINE INFLUENZA VIRUS IN CHICAGO
The Canine Influenza Virus (the “Dog Flu”) is causing illness throughout the Chicago area. All unvaccinated dogs may be at risk. Even dogs showing no sign of illness may carry this virus.
PLEASE ENTER THIS DOG FRIENDLY AREA (DFA) AT YOUR OWN RISK
The virus is extremely contagious. Unvaccinated dogs exposed to the Dog Flu are more likely to contract the disease.
Symptoms may include:
- Lack of Appetite
- Nasal Discharge
- Trouble Breathing
So it appears that all of Chicago is in an uproar over nasal discharge and coughing.
If you note any of these symptoms, please keep your dog away from other pets and visit your veterinarian as soon as possible. Please remember, all social dogs are required to have the Bordetella (kennel cough) vaccine for DFA licensing.
Why all the fuss over something as innocuous as the dog flu?
Seeding And Why You Need Know What It Is
You might not know this, but pharmaceutical companies make a lot of money from vaccines. So it’s in their best interests to make sure sales are good (and veterinary vaccine sales are really good business).
One way to ensure sales stay strong is to collaborate with the media in something called “seeding.”
“Marketing strategies are planned years ahead,” says John Virapen, who worked more than 35 years in the pharmaceutical industry and was general manager for Eli Lilly & Company. “If a new product is on the way, the pharmaceutical companies will do the market research first and based on that, lay down strategies in terms of time and method. This is normally done with a five year projection before launch.
The 2011 Dog Flu Epidemic
So how do we know the difference between an actual epidemic and a clever marketing strategy?
A little glimpse at the last dog flu epidemic might give us some insight.
In 2011, a canine influenza epidemic was heavily covered in the media. Even ABC News carried an article, urging dog owners to vaccinate their pets. The article warned: (See the full article here)
“There are outbreaks of dog flu right now in the New York metropolitan area and near San Antonio, Texas, and other states have reported epidemics throughout the year. Since the virus, known as H3N8, was first identified in 2004, thousands of dogs in 38 states have become sick with the flu, and veterinarians say that number continues to climb.
“If you want to have a proactive strategy to protect against the unpredictability of canine influenza virus, the best preventive strategy is vaccination,” said Dr Cynda Crawford, clinical assistant professor in shelter medicine at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
When it all came to an end, were the dire news reports justified?
Dr David Lewis, director of consultation services at Antech Diagnostics reported his lab saw no unusual flu activity outside of the New York City area.
Dr Edward Dubovi, director of the virology laboratory at the Cornell University Animal Health Diagnostic Center, reported seeing an uptick in positive results from greater New York City as well as cases from a single kennel in San Antonio, Texas.
Dr Christian Leutenegger, head of molecular diagnostics for Idexx, noticed spikes in California; New York City and environs; and Texas, all occurring in August, September and October, as follows:
• California, eight cases. Five in the Los Angeles area, three in the Sacramento area.
• New York region, 10 cases. Three were in New York City, three on Long Island, and one each near Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Middletown, N.Y., Hartford, Conn., and Delaware.
• Texas, 10 cases. Five were in San Antonio, five in Dallas/Fort Worth.
Because canine influenza virus prevalence is not very high overall, Leutenegger said, attention-getting peaks can form easily from a relatively small number of cases.
So if the prevalence wasn’t very high, what were all the media reports warning us about?
And more importantly, who was behind all of these reports?
Dr Cynda Crawford is a veterinarian at the University of Florida who led the research team that first identified the canine influenza virus in 2004.
Crawford, along with colleagues at UF, Cornell University and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), share intellectual rights to the canine influenza virus; Merck has licensed the right to use the virus to make a vaccine.
However, Crawford maintains that she and the others don’t receive compensation from vaccine sales.
“It seems to be getting harder to (determine) when a disease is real and when it is being ‘pushed’ by vaccine or drug manufacturers these days,” commented veterinarian Dr Margaret Mason, a vet in Carpenteria, Calif.
About The Dog Flu Vaccine
So we now know that, once the dust settled, media warnings of dog flu epidemics amounted to little.
We also know that pharmaceutical companies and the vets who hold patents on canine influenza have a keen interest in the number of reports on dog flu outbreaks.
And we know that they want you to vaccinate …
Dr Judith Schwartz, the staff veterinarian at the Humane Society of New York, called the outbreak “very” concerning in a recent interview with CBS.
“It’s (a) concern for me not just because of the animals I see, but we could have a dog in the waiting room saying hello to another dog in the waiting room, and they could be incubating – and no one would know it.”
Schwartz said treating dog flu can cost thousands of dollars if the animal has to be hospitalized in isolation. An annual vaccine, considered to be highly effective, costs about $100.
So could a simple vaccine would be the solution to dog flu epidemics?
Studies do show that dogs who are vaccinated for canine influenza will shed a bit less of the vaccine and for about a day less than unvaccinated dogs.
So that’s good news …
The bad news is how much that $100 vaccine costs your dog … especially considering that, just like the human flu, canine influenza is a self limiting, normal illness that, in the vast majority of dogs, amounts to a couple of days of feeling sick.
Of course, we don’t want our dogs to feel bad for even five minutes!
But is vaccinating them with foreign animal protein, heavy metals like aluminum, mercury and formaldehyde, msg and other toxic substances that we know cause long-term, autoimmune illness in our dogs (like allergies, joint disease, hypothyroidism, cancer and more) really the best strategy?
Vaccination causes immune suppression … and that’s one really big reason why you should avoid the flu vaccine.
Let’s take a critical look at the flu vaccine …
It takes two shots spaced two to four weeks apart, then an additional seven days for the flu vaccine to protect your dog (and remember, protection doesn’t mean your dog still won’t get the dog flu). Chances are, by the time your dog is protected, the flu epidemic will be gone.
But let’s say you want to vaccinate your dog anyway, because there’s dog flu in your area and you’re concerned. Fair enough.
So you take your dog to the vet for his first shot. This will suppress his immune system for a good week (and that means that for the next week, he’s more at risk to catch the flu and to suffer more symptoms because the vaccine has trashed his immune system).
Then you take him in for a second shot a few weeks later. And once again, your dog isn’t yet protected, but you’ve once more sent his immune system into a tailspin and made him more likely to catch the flu should he come into contact with another sick dog (and you’ve also made him more likely to catch any other disease he may come across).
And if your dog is lucky enough to have not caught the flu while he’s being vaccinated (get the irony here?), but unlucky enough to get the flu after he’s been vaccinated, he’s not necessarily protected!
Does The Vaccine Even Work?
A new study shows that pigs vaccinated against one strain of influenza were worse off if subsequently infected by a related strain of the virus.
That means that the pigs vaccinated for influenza were often sicker if they got the flu. And your dog might be too.
People in Chicago are seeing this; the flipside of the flu epidemic that nobody talks about.
Yesterday, I received an email from a Dogs Naturally retail partner who operates a boarding and daycare facility. They decided a while back that they wouldn’t require vaccination for their customers. And it seemed like a good idea until the flu hit their area – and they were understandably nervous.
So far, they haven’t had any cases in their customers’ dogs. But they did have two fatalities …
One dog was taken to a drive-thru flu vaccine clinic and bloated the same night.
The second dog was taken to another facility because our retail partner was full. The new facility required influenza vaccination and the senior dog was vaccinated the day they brought her in. When her owners picked her up to take her home, she was obviously sick and could barely walk.
She died from influenza two days later.
How to Help Your Dog Remain Flu-Free
Dr Karen Becker is based in the Chicago area, yet for the reasons above, she doesn’t advise her patients to use the flu vaccine.
“If your pet should be exposed to the virus, as long as his immune system is healthy, he’ll either be asymptomatic (show no symptoms), or he’ll recover quickly without medical care.”
Dr Becker recommends the following as a safer and more effective alternative to vaccination:
- Feed a balanced, species-appropriate diet.
- Avoid unnecessary vaccinations and overuse of veterinary drugs and chemical parasite and pest preventives.
- Reduce the environmental toxins your dog is exposed to, which will in turn lesson his toxic burden and biological stress.
- Talk to your holistic vet about natural immune boosters like turmeric, oregano and fresh garlic, as well as useful herbs and diffusing virus-fighting essential oils to support the immune system.
Here’s a final quote on this latest epidemic:
“The important thing is that people not panic over this. Canine flu is a new disease, so there is a lot we don’t know about it, but the mortality rate is very low, and many dogs don’t even get sick from it. It made a huge splash in the press because the molecular genetics part of the story established such a clear cross-species transmission of an influenza virus-not because it is a new, deadly disease of dogs. The virulence of this virus has been greatly exaggerated by some.”
–Dr Tom Graves, University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine