Canine Influenza AKA "Dog Flu"
Canine Influenza ("Dog Flu") is a viral infection that is extremely contagious between dogs. The virus is spread when dogs cough / sneeze / or bark at each other and can also be transmitted by contaminated objects such as human hands or clothing. This virus is new to the United States so dogs do not have any natural immunity to it (meaning that almost all dogs who are exposed to the virus will get sick in some fashion).
The symptoms of Dog Flu can range from mild to severe. Symptoms may include: cough, discharge from the nose or eyes, lethargy, sneezing, loss of appetite, and fever. In some dogs, this can progress to potentially life threatening pneumonia. Even with treatment, dogs may take several weeks to recover. Young puppies, very old dogs, and dogs with underlying health problems or weakened immune systems are more at risk to develop the severe symptoms.
Treatment consists of supportive care to help the dog stay hydrated until the immune system can over come the virus over time- there is no antidote / medication to stop the virus itself. The latest research is showing that infected dogs may be contagious for a few days before they are showing symptoms of illness themselves and infected dogs remain contagious for 30 days!
Beginning in June 2016, there were over 400 cases of Dog Flu in the Bloomington area. Rare cases have occured in our area so far, but that may change as time goes by. Dog Flu does not infect people, but may cause symptoms in cats (further research is pending).
There is a vaccine for Canine Influenza available, but there are few things that you need to know first.
-The vaccine is used as a precaution- we do not know if Canine Influenza will appear in our area, but we are recommending dogs who are at high risk be vaccinated just in case.
-Dogs at high risk are those that travel or are potentially exposed to other dogs through public events (dog parks, doggie daycare, dog friendly stores, boarding facilities, grooming parlors, etc). Young puppies, elderly dogs, and those with pre existing health concerns are also at higher risk.
-Just like the human flu, there are different strains of Dog Flu and the vaccine will NOT protect against ALL of them, but the current Dog Flu vaccine is targeted against the strain that is most prevalent right now. The Dog Flu vaccine is NOT 100% effective in preventing all illness, but it is beneficial in helping to prevent the more severe symptoms such as pneumonia.
-The Dog Flu vaccine is given once and then repeated in 2 to 4 weeks. Full immunity does not develop until 2 weeks after the second injection. After the second injection, the vaccine can be repeated annually if needed. Since is takes 4 to 6 weeks for immunity to develop after initial vaccination, it is best to have the vaccine "on board" for high risk dogs in advance in case an outbreak would develop in our area.
-The Dog Flu vaccine WILL NOT give your dog the flu.
-The Bordetella vaccine is NOT the same thing as Canine Infuenza vaccine. Bordetella is against a bacteria involved in causing Kennel Cough. Kennel Cough has similar symptoms to Dog Flu, but Dog Flu tends to be more serious.
**Avoid areas if coughing dogs are present. Even if your pet is vaccinated, the vaccine may not entirely protect them.
**If you come in contact with a sick dog (coughing/sneezing/etc), do not allow your dog to touch you, your clothing, or contaminated objects (toys, bowls, etc) until everything is washed. The dog flu virus is inactivated by common household detergents, but can remain infective on objects or hands for up to 48 hours if not washed thoroughly.
**If your dog is sick, please call your veterinarian so that any necessary treatment can begin. If your dog is sick, you need to quarantine them from other pets as much as possible until they can be examined by your veterinarian. PLEASE BE AWARE that if your dog is sick, you need to call the clinic first- DO NOT just walk in! We will want to examine your dog if they are coughing, but we need to take steps to protect our other patients. If your dog has flu symptoms, please call first to schedule an appointment time. We will ask you to remain in the car with your dog until we can clear our waiting room and usher you directly into our dedicated exam room. We will ask you to stay in the room with your pet for the length of the examination and do not be alarmed that we will be wearing protective clothing. It is vital that we take these steps in case the Dog Flu should hit our area next.
**Please call to set up an appointment if you are interested in vaccinating against Canine Influenza or if you have any questions. 309-694-0505
For more information, visit www.doginfluenza.com or the Peoria Journal Star website: