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The Canine Flu

As a member of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS), pet parents depend on members to give their pets some TLC, exercise and sometimes transportation to doggie daycares.  Despite pets enjoying their day at a doggie daycare, the large outbreak of a dog flu is causing many concerned pet parents to leave their pets in the safety of their own homes. 

Dog flu, also known as canine influenza causes respiratory problems in canines.  It may take up to ten 10 days for a dog to show symptoms that may include coughing, sneezing, fever, nasal discharge, lethargy and loss of appetite. Severity increases with the development of pneumonia and may lead to death, though the percentage of dogs that die is very small.  The influenza virus is spread by droplets when the dog coughs or sneezes, and by contact with contaminated objects.  Humans can carry the influenza virus on their clothes for up to 48 hours. If you come into contact, change your clothes before coming in contact with another dog to prevent spreading the illness. Dog owners should wash their hands after contact with any dog. Exposure to infected dogs in shelters, kennels and daycare facilities spreads the infection.  So far, no human infections with canine influenza have ever been reported.

Canine influenza A H3N8 originated in horses, spread to dogs and between dogs, and is now considered dog-specific.  The H3N2 virus originated in birds in South Korea, China and Thailand, and may infect cats, but not humans. 

Tests to confirm canine influenza are available.  There is an approved vaccine to protect dogs from influenza A H3N8, though it is not known whether it will protect against the H3N2 virus.  Pet parents must discuss these options with their veterinarian.  Treatment is supportive, with plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

Even though the outbreak in the Midwest section of the U.S. is serious, it is being contained by responsible officials and daycares, some of who have closed to deep clean their facilities.      

Pet parents would do well to keep up to date on the latest news of the dog flu outbreak and to contact a veterinarian if they have questions or concerns.