Dog Flu

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We have received several calls recently from worried clients who are concerned about the current outbreak of Canine Influenza (dog flu) in the Midwest. We wanted to take this opportunity to educate you on the facts and what you can do. First of all, don’t panic! There is a lot of sensationalism in the media about this outbreak. We wanted to provide you with the facts.

According to Cornell University’s Diagnostic Laboratory this is a new strain of the canine influenza that has not been seen in this country before. It is not related to the dog flu outbreak that occurred several years ago centered in Florida and primarily on greyhound tracks. While there is a flu vaccine commercially available for dogs it unfortunately does not vaccinate against the new strain that is causing the current outbreak.

  • The current incidence of the canine influenza (or CI) is centered in the greater Chicago area. Reports of cases have also occurred in Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin.
  • Only 34 dogs have actually been diagnosed (via a PCR lab test) with having the virus.
  • Rumors of multiple thousands of dogs being sick are false. There have been around 1000 dogs that have shown symptoms, but again, only 34 have been diagnosed as having it.
  • There are also reports of dogs dying from it. While this is true, it is exaggerated. The actual number of deceased dogs is only five. According to our research these patients had other diseases or conditions that aggravated their health, and in one case the owner opted to euthanize and not treat due to their dog’s age.
  • There are other upper respiratory diseases, such as kennel cough, that mimic the flu in their presentation.
  • This flu strain is not contagious to humans. There is some clinical evidence that this strain is contagious to cats, but it has not been seen outside of laboratory testing.

If you have not traveled or have not come in contact with dogs that have traveled to the Midwest then there should be no cause for concern. The best thing for you to do as a worried pet parent is to avoid bringing your dog to these areas. Listed below are some signs and symptoms for you to watch for if you or your pet have recently traveled to these areas.

Symptoms to Watch For:

  • High Fever
  • Nasal congestion/discharge
  • Cough: typically a dry hacking cough
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting (in some cases)
  • Loss of appetite

Basic infection control principles to follow:

  • Limit direct dog-to-dog nose/mouth contact.
  • Use soap and water to wash as this is a very effective way of inactivating this virus, so wash your own hands after touching other dogs.
  • The flu virus will live in the environment for 24-48 hours in the majority of cases.
  • If you are exposed to sick dogs change your clothes and wash your hands and any other objects that were exposed before handling your own pets at home.
  • If an outbreak is confirmed in your area avoid high dog traffic areas such as dog parks.
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