This time of year doesn't just bring good cheer and celebration of the holidays, it also brings us that nasty illness known as the flu! I think every human I know has at some point or another been struck with the flu virus and now either vaccinates themselves against it or risks it without the vaccine. But what about our pooches? Well, many of you may be surprised to know that they can be infected by the flu virus as well. First, let's be clear, it is a different virus, humans cannot spread our flu to our dogs. But they can get the K-9 flu and they do have vaccines for it. The question is, do you need to vaccinate your dog for this too?
Well, Dogster had a great blog about this very thing this morning with great information that can help you determine if this is something you should be discussing with your vet.
Well as many of you probably know, dogs can get the flu – just not the flu viruses we suffer from, fortunately. The canine influenza virus (CIV) is a relatively new problem, with the first reported case in 2003, and is reported to be extremely contagious. The CDC website says scientists think the virus jumped species, from horses to dogs, and has adapted well. Yikes! Fortunately it is not contagious from dogs to people.
Here’s what doginfluenza.com (an info website created by the makers of a dog flu vaccine, but with much the same info as everyone else) has to say about the contagion factor:
“Just like human flu is among humans, canine influenza is highly contagious among dogs. In fact, unless a dog has already had the illness and recovered, virtually every dog exposed to the virus will become infected. This is because the virus is relatively new…and dogs have no natural immunity to it…
“CIV can pass from dog to dog through virus particles in the air (eg, through coughing or sneezing) or by coming into physical contact with other dogs (touching noses). It can also be picked up if a dog touches or plays with objects that were touched by infected dogs (for example, food bowls, toys). Humans can even transfer the virus between dogs. For example, they may spread the virus if they touch an infected dog, or even touch a toy or doorknob that the dog has contacted, and then touch another dog before washing their hands.”
I don’t know many dogs who contact doorknobs (do some dogs have opposable thumbs these days?), but the other stuff is pretty commonplace. Canine flu is usually pretty mild, but some dogs can become very ill from it. About 20 percent of dogs with CIV get pneumonia and a high fever. Eight percent go on to further complications.
How do you know if your dog has the flu? He can’t exactly reach for the Kleenex and tell you he doesn’t feel like going for a run. Sometimes the signs are subtle, so here are some things to look out for:
• Mild, low-grade fever (103°F)
• Lethargy (tiredness)
• Loss of appetite
• Cough, which may be dry or may bring up sputum
• Runny nose with clear secretions at first, but may later change to a thick and yellow and/or pink-tinged color
The symptoms are quite similar to ours. If you think your dog has the flu, call your vet. And don’t take your dog to places where other dogs could be exposed to it.
But this brings us to the question: Does your dog need to be vaccinated against dog flu? It’s something to discuss with your veterinarian, of course. I know a lot of you feel we already overvaccinate our dogs, and some of you will want to go out and protect your dog immediately. Here’s what I’m generally finding about vaccine recommendations. This version comes from VetDepot.com:
“Not every dog needs to be protected against the flu. Dogs that are housed in close contact with one another are at the highest risk. So if your dog is boarded, goes to a professional groomer, or attends doggy day care or dog shows, vaccination might be in his best interest. Infections are also frequently diagnosed in dogs that have spent time in shelters or pet stores. Interestingly, going to dog parks does not seem to increase the risk of canine flu infection.”
(The last line is hopeful for those of us who take our dogs to parks other dogs frequent, but it doesn’t jibe with the extreme contagion reported in most CIV literature I’ve read. I’m not in a position to interpret the conflicting information, so your trusted vet is probably the place to go for answers.)
I hope this information was helpful to you, it certainly was for me. I will be discussing with my vet if this vaccination is right for my dog, I hope you will all do the same. I am lucky to have a vet that will give me a truthful answer about vaccines, meds and tests for my dog. I know she will only recommend what is best for Neville, not what is best for her pocketbook.
If any of you should need a vet referral, give me a BARK!