WHAT IS THE CANINE FLU?
Spreading rapidly throughout Chicago and the Chicago-land suburbs is what dog owners are beginning to dread… canine Influenza (H3N8). Even neighboring states are beginning to fear the spread of the Canine Flu, and nervously await the arrival of this dog virus in their home towns. Approximately 1,000 cases have been reported, and five official canine deaths. The canine flu, though only several years old, is fairly common and comes around every flu season (a dog has the same flu season we do- Autumn through early Spring). However, this year’s case is wide-spread, intimidating, and extremely deadly. Vets have said that they've never before seen a case quite as intense as this one.
So, what exactly is Canine Influenza? Well, without getting into all the scientific terms, the Canine Flu is basically a respiratory virus affecting the lungs and nasal passage. The flu can be fatal.
The Canine Flu is linked with the same respiratory virus as kennel cough. The symptoms are similarly linked as well… a cough and fever. The treatment is relatively the same: rest, good diet, and a quick round of antibiotics. Kennel cough can easily be likened to Canine Influenza, both being an extremely contagious virus with similar symptoms. But, kennel cough IS NOT the same thing as canine influenza! Canine influenza and kennel cough should be treated with differing antibiotics- not the same antibiotic. My dog as a puppy had kennel cough, due to being kept previously with multiple other dogs at an animal shelter. We were warned of her potentially being infected, and at first signs of a cough, brought her to our local vet where she was put onto a round of antibiotics. She has been non-infected and healthy ever since. This is a comparable (but not the same) treatment for canine influenza.
HOW CAN YOUR DOG CONTRACT CANINE FLU?
Just like kennel cough, dogs contract the canine flu by being around multiple dogs at once. For example, communal dog places like dog parks and doggy day-cares, where dogs are contained together in limited space, can cause the spread. Often, when given more room to roam and run free at dog parks and doggy day-cares, the chance of spreading is naturally lessened. It is the overcrowded dog parks and facilities that cause the virus to spread more rapidly, due primarily to the lack of cleanliness. This is probably why the flu is wide-spread temporarily in Chicago, where the dog parks give limited space and are more than often over-crowded. In fact, multiple Chicago parks have entirely shut down briefly and various Petsmart locations have temporarily closed their day-care centers. That said, the flu can spread most anywhere (whether in a spacious, limited-dog situation, or overcrowded), and as dog owners, we must still continue to take precaution.
Dogs most susceptible are ages one year and under, and dogs above age seven.
The dogs most probable of spreading the virus are the ones that don’t yet show any symptoms. If your dog has been around many other dogs (in a dog park setting, for example), it is best to keep him or her incubated up to ten days, or until symptoms show (if the dog has contracted the virus at all).
Any time your dog sniffs another dog, there is the potential of your dog contracting Canine flu. Primarily, if the noses touch and any time dogs have contact with other dogs’ saliva, germs spread and dogs are spreading the virus. If not treated immediately, there is a possibility of the flu developing into pneumonia.
Nearly every single dog exposed to the Canine flu will become infected. That said, most will not have dire symptoms. Approximately only 80% show any symptoms at all.
Surprisingly, this virus was originally a flu compatible only with horses. However, that proved untrue as the virus spread to the canine species.
Note that though humans can pass on the germs of the flu to other dogs (i.e. through dog saliva, etc.), humans cannot become infected. Also, this canine flu (H3N8) has nothing to do whatsoever with swine flu (H1N1), as the number/letter code combination can easily be confused.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
The symptoms of Canine Influenza are as follows:
· Excess, discolored mucus
· Labored breathing
If treated immediately (as soon as even the slightest symptoms appear), the Canine Flu most likely will not grow worse. However, if ignored, the dog then has the possibility of developing pneumonia, as stated before. Any worsening can lead to potential death, though death is rare. According to the AVMA Pet Census, there are 69.9 million dogs in the entire U.S. If you factor in the 51.8 percent of all pets that are in Illinois alone, only five dogs have died. If we continue to catch the early stages of Canine Influenza, I believe that we can easily keep the number at five, and five alone.
Symptoms can last up to two weeks.
HOW IS THE FLU DIAGNOSED?
Of course, the symptoms are a pretty good clue that your dog has the flu. That said, to be sure, your veterinarian will have to run a couple tests. Often times, symptoms of Canine Influenza are mistaken with symptoms of kennel cough. To confirm that it really is the flu, the vet will have to take a panel of lab tests. Diagnosis tests may vary depending on the individual veterinarian. If the test comes back positive, and the dog goes through a round of antibiotics (or whatever recovery path you and your vet decide on), two or three weeks following, another test will take place to assure the pathogens are completely out of the dog’s system.
TO VACCINATE OR NOT TO VACCINATE
So, should you vaccinate your dog against Canine Influenza? Funny we are now asking this question over dogs after years of people debating to give their children and themselves flu vaccines! Well, still, the question is mutual during this huge case of Canine Influenza. Should you vaccinate your dog against Canine Flu?
One veterinarian (Dr. George Cunningham, Detroit Animal Hospital, Westlake) in the state of Ohio answered people and their nervous request for dogs becoming vaccinated against the flu, by saying, “We would take a stand of let’s see what it looks like; if there is a large number of animals becoming ill, absolutely- get the vaccine to prevent it, but at this point, we aren't seeing that.”
If you notice dogs all around you contracting the virus, this vet’s stance is to then make your move and vaccinate.
However, I tend to agree more with Dr. Becker, a reputable holistic veterinarian, writing for Mercola.com. She states in her 2011 article, H3N8 Canine Influenza Virus (CIV): The New Flu Virus That’s Infecting Dogs, “Just say no! Too many vaccines, in particular non-core vaccines like those for CIV, can wreak havoc on your dog’s immune system, actually compromising its ability to protect your pet from pathogens like the H3N8 virus.”
In my dog, I've seen her suffer the side effects of a new vaccine recommended by the dog park we attend. She contracted a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection), and was continually in chronic pain until her round of antibiotics kicked in. That’s not to say your dog would have the same response to a new vaccine, however.
I say, determine your thoughts on the vaccine and decide whether or not your dog would benefit from it. Either way, your dog can still get the flu. The vaccine only slightly lessens the severity of the symptoms. In fact, the virus is even still contagious in vaccinated dogs.
There are multiple treatments for Canine influenza, antibiotics generally the last solution. Several treatments are as follows:
· Nutrition: It is important to ascertain a good diet for your dog. Do your own research and, decidedly, consult your veterinarian.
· Rest: Make sure that your dog is rested and comfortable, providing him with fresh water and a warm dog bed.
· Veterinarian Prescribed Antibiotic Routine
Of course, prevention is key. Perhaps for you, prevention means to stay away from the dog park two or three weeks, until things slow down a bit and less cases of the flu are reported. When around other dogs, be sure that you as the owner wash your hands to prevent the virus from spreading.
A few natural remedies of prevention consist of the following:
· Coconut Oil: Coconut Oil helps to prevent infections and viruses in dogs. A simple daily prescription would be a ¼ teaspoon per 10 pounds of your dog’s body weight (either by spoon or mixed in with his or her food). Coconut Oil not only helps to prevent canine influenza, but can also help maintain your dog’s weight, aid the thyroid gland, and assists in digestion.
· Turmeric: Believe it or not, sprinkling a little bit of turmeric in your dog’s food, can help your dog immensely! Turmeric not only helps lessen pain in dogs with arthritis and prevents cancer and heart infirmities, but also can help in preventing colds and other ailments. A daily ¼ teaspoon per 10 pounds of your dog’s body weight can help in preventing canine flu.
· For more information on natural flu remedies, go to The Whole Dog Journal’s website, and search, “natural flu remedies”. Instantly, many ideal remedies should pop up (I tested it myself!). Follow the same previous instructions and look into Dr. Becker’s pet health column on mercola.com.
NOTE: you want to start slow when introducing your dog to anything new in his or her diet. Don’t overdose! If you notice your dog having negative side effects after one week of consumption, it is best to quit giving the source that’s causing the problems.
First, let’s get this right: though sometimes it may seem that dogs are more lovable than the average person, dogs (and any animal, for that matter) are never more important than people. While it is good to be investigating harmful properties and illnesses that can potentially affect your dog, it is important not to get into a frenzy over it (and trust me, that can be exceedingly hard!).
As a dog owner, I’m going to choose the best method of prevention for my individual dog- even if that means missing several weeks of attending our dog park, or avoiding other dogs on neighborhood walks for a brief while. I suggest that you also choose the best method for you and your dog, whether that means missing days at doggy day-care or getting the vaccine. After all, prevention is key and good as long as you don’t go overboard with it.
Whew! Owning a dog can be super hard, challenging, and a bit disconcerting... and yet, extremely fun! But, as usual, this flu will be over and long behind us soon enough… and then it’s time for the next pet-owning obstacle course to show itself.
I like to have a lot of various resources when writing any non-fiction. So, here are the sites and articles I gathered some of my information from: