What you need to know to protect your pet
There have been some confirmed cases of canine influenza in our area of Michigan (boarding and doggie day care facilities) so we wanted to get some information out to our clients to help answer any questions you may have.
What is Canine Influenza (CIV)?
CIV is a highly contagious virus that can cause respiratory disease in both dogs and cats. We see it more in dogs because they tend to socialize with other dogs more and are kenneled more often than cats are. Fortunately, it is NOT contagious to people. The virus spreads through respiratory secretions and a cough or sneeze can spread those secretions over 20 ft! That means when dogs are in close quarters (kennels) or around many other dogs (bark parks or doggy daycare) there can be very rapid transmission between them. Depending on the individual animal’s immune system, this disease can range from mild to very serious and even life-threatening. The most common clinical signs seen are: nasal discharge (usually yellow or green), a softer moist cough, fever, lethargy and a decreased appetite. These signs show up between 2-5 days after exposure and can last for more than a week. One of the things that help this disease spread so quickly is that infected dogs shed the virus BEFORE they act sick, while they are sick and up to 30 days after infection. There can also be a small subset of dogs that are subclinical; meaning they have the disease and can spread it but don’t have symptoms. All of this adds up to create rapid, severe outbreaks.
What can you do to protect your animals from CIV?
Avoid bark parks, kennels and other areas where dogs gather and interact. If you have to board your dog at a kennel, do not take them if they are sick in any way. We know that some plans can’t be changed but, spreading this disease can be deadly. Kennels are doing everything they can to prevent spread of this virus but can only do so much when they can’t even identify which animals may have it. There is a vaccine that is effective in preventing this infection in dogs but, it takes almost 2 months to create the necessary immunity. The vaccine is given in 2 doses, 2-4 weeks apart and not considered protective for 4 weeks after the second injection. There is no vaccine for cats available at this time.
What can you do if you think your pet has influenza?
Call us to discuss what symptoms you are seeing. Treatment is non-specific and symptomatic which means there is no cure (just like with our own flu viruses) but there are things we can recommend to help with the fever, cough, dehydration and secondary bacterial infections. In an effort to not spread the disease further, we may not want to rush these cases in right away and, if we do need to see them, we will ask you to keep your animal in the car until directed otherwise. We have a separate area set up to isolate these animals from the rest of the clinic while they are being examined. If in-hospital treatment is required we have facilities to refer you to that are equipped to help. The biggest thing to remember is not to panic. This can be serious for a small number of animals (especially the young, the old and patients with other conditions) but, most animals will be just fine. It is very similar to our flu in that sense. The best protection is to avoid the areas where it is most likely to spread. That can be a difficult thing to do in the middle of summer when many of us are traveling but, is probably the best “medicine” we can prescribe.
Please contact us with any further questions or if you think your pet would benefit from receiving the vaccine.
Oxford Veterinary Hospital
6 Lincoln Street
Oxford, MI 48371