The Canine "Flu" is big news -
While it is a veterinarian’s job to take care of sick and injured animals, we are also responsible for the health and well-being of healthy animals. Sometimes that can mean a simple check-up and vaccination, but other times it goes beyond the examination room. We understand our clients’ concerns when they see headlines in the news that involve their pets and livestock. With the recent outbreak of canine influenza near Chicago, we believe it is also our responsibility to be a source of information to our clients who own dogs.
This “canine influenza” is believed to be a combination of viruses coming together to create a more complex disease known as Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease or CIRD. There have been outbreaks of CIRD in the past, but they have never reached the magnitude of the current outbreak, which now involves more than 1,000 dogs. Most of the dogs affected are falling ill quickly, and taking longer to recover from their symptoms despite treatment. The most common symptoms include fever, lethargy, and cough that doesn’t seem to go away. Dogs with CIRD may transmit the disease even though they have no symptoms, which is why so many dogs can become affected so quickly. The virus is very contagious among dogs, but will not affect you or your feline friends. Another problem, is that the virus can survive on surfaces-like your couch or your pet’s food bowl for up to 48 hours, making it easy for other dogs that make contact with those surfaces to become affected. Like many respiratory infections, dogs with the weakest immune systems-like the very young and the elderly-are most severely affected.
Very few cases of CIRD have been reported in Kansas. However, we must remain alert and watch our pets closely. For the next few weeks, try to avoid locations where dogs congregate, like dog parks, doggie day care, public parks, and areas next to hotels and restaurants. Vaccination is also very important. Keeping all of your dog’s regular vaccinations and parasite preventions up-to-date will help create a robust immune system, which will help fight off an illness. Canine “flu” vaccines are in very short supply. We have doses reserved for pets traveling to the upper Midwest and boarding situations, but do not recommend “flu” vaccine for a routine vaccination during the shortage. Because this current virus is not yet completely categorized, the vaccine available is probably not going to prevent the disease, but rather, it will make the “flu” less virulent. Information from the CDC indicates that while this is a highly contagious disease and the virus remains active on surfaces for 48 hours, the good news is that fatalities are less than 1% of infected dogs. If you believe your pet may be affected by CIRD be certain to mention that when you call your vet. Our plan at RBVS is to have you wait in your car until one of the vets can see you and then bring you and your pet to an exam room that is reserved for contagious pets. If your pet develops a cough with fever and lethargy, please call us at the Red Barn. We will be happy to answer any questions that you may have and schedule an exam.
Since we know that concerned pet owners are going to “google” canine flu news, we encourage the use of responsible informational outlets, like the AVMA, Cornell University and the Center for Disease Control.