Dr Kelly's Korner: Winter 2011
Well, the cold winds, snow and ice have arrived, and along with them come cold and flu season. Winter weather brings with it sniffles, sneezing, aches and pains which are the hallmark signs of human influenza. But did you know that your dog may be susceptible to a canine flu all year long?
Canine Influenza is a newly emerging infectious disease caused by a virus known as H3N8. This virus has been isolated and identified in over 30 US States so far, including Ohio. Because H3N8 is new to the environment, virtually every dog exposed will become infected due to a lack of natural immunity. While 100% of dogs are susceptible to influenza infection, only about 80% will show clinical signs. The other 20% can still spread the virus, even though they are not sick.
Clinical signs of canine influenza include a persistent cough which can be dry or moist , low-grade fever, nasal discharge, lack of energy and decreased appetite. Signs can include some or all of the above symptoms, but the most common is a persistent cough and runny nose. Once these signs have presented, the disease must run its course. However, your veterinarian may be able to provide treatment for secondary bacterial infections which may occur while your dog’s immune system is fighting the virus.
Because canine flu presents like many other respiratory illnesses, it is very hard to diagnose. Testing is available, but must be timed perfectly to be positive. For that reason, many veterinarians will treat the illness supportively in the same way as kennel cough or other upper respiratory infections. Treatment includes antibiotics, cough suppressants for dry cough, and fluids as needed to maintain adequate nutrition and hydration. Just as in humans, a small handful of influenza cases may result in severe complications which may require more intense treatment, and may result in death. However, the great majority of dogs recover fully after 7-10 days.
Canine flu is spread much like its human counterpart. The virus is contracted through direct contact, airborne infection, and contaminated objects such as clothing, hands and toys. Like children in a daycare, dogs in a kennel or shelter are at higher risk due to an increased population in close contact. Just like in humans, a new vaccine has been approved for dogs at high risk. The canine vaccine requires 2 doses, given 2 weeks apart and then repeated once a year. This is where the Animal Resource Center comes in.
Along with a handful of Western Ohio County shelters, I am pleased to announce that the ARC is part of an exciting new program known as “Building Community Immunity”. Through a generous grant from Intervet/Schering Plough Animal Health and Petfinder.com, we have obtained over 7000 doses of vaccine to help our high risk dogs. With every adoption from the Resource Center, we are now taking the lead to improve the immunity of the canine population in Greater Dayton, as well as improve the health of our shelter residents.
You can also do your part to help decrease the incidence of canine flu in the community.
If your dog is often in contact with other dogs in grooming salons, kennels,dog parks, training or travel,talk to your veterinarian about the canine influenza vaccine. It just might prevent some sneezing and sniffling in the future!!