Family Dog With Contagious Hendra Virus Euthanized

Australian KelpieDusty, a 2-year-old Kelpie from Australia who was the first dog to test positive for deadly Hendra virus antibodies, was put to sleep on Sunday.

The Hendra virus is carried by flying foxes (also known as pteropid fruit bats) and transmitted to horses, then passed on to humans, according to The Australian. It causes influenza-like respiratory and renal illness.

The first outbreak occurred in Australia in 1994, when 13 horses and their human trainer died in Brisbane. There have been two other human fatalities since then. As of June 20 this year, 15 horses have died from the Hendra virus in Australia, and 60 people are being tested for it.

During a press conference last week in Brisbane, Queensland Chief Veterinarian Rick Symons said, “We don’t know how the dog contracted the virus or when it happened. Based on our knowledge to date, it is most likely that the dog caught the virus from an infected horse.” He said the spread of the virus to another species raised concerns for biosecurity and health officials.

Dusty’s family, the Fearons, had already lost three of their horses to the disease. They decided to voluntarily put down their dog instead of waiting to be ordered to do so by biosecurity officials, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Our beloved dog Dusty was humanely euthanized by our family vet after results of his most recent blood tests confirmed that he carried Hendra virus antibodies, which meant he was able to spread the virus to other animals,” the Fearons said in a statement. “We are devastated by the loss of our fourth family animal to the Hendra virus and are particularly saddened to witness the affect the loss of our young dog has had on our children.”

Veterinarian Peter Reid told The Australian that vets have long suspected that dogs were also susceptible to the virus.

”Dogs are companions. They live in the home; they come into close contact with their owners. They lick the faces of children,” Reid said. ”The Nipah virus, a cousin to the Hendra, has passed from bats to dogs in Malaysia and Singapore. So it’s not surprising Hendra can, also.”

Biosecurity Queensland is considering mandatory testing for the Hendra virus on pets that live with infected horses, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

A vaccine for horses is in development and planned to be available in 2013.

PHOTO: Ellen Levy Finch

Laura Goldman

Laura Goldman is senior social media writer for i Love Dogs, Inc. She does love dogs. And elephants and turtles. Along with writing about the loves of her life, Laura likes to play with her two pound pups and tell anyone who'll listen just how awesome Pit Bulls are.

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