Concord Animal Hospital’s Dr. Stephen Wilson on what you need to know to protect your dog from canine influenza
Last Thursday, Angell Animal Medical Center announced the first confirmed case of canine influenza in Massachusetts this year. The patient was a four-month-old poodle brought in earlier in August with a fever and hacking cough and is fortunately recovering after being treated at Angell.
CAH’s own Dr. Stephen Wilson explains what Massachusetts dog owners need to know to keep their pets safe and healthy now that canine influenza has arrived in our state.
1. Let’s start with the basics. What is canine influenza?
Dr. Wilson: Canine influenza is exactly what it sounds like – a flu that effects dogs but not humans, cats or other pets. Originally a virus among horses, the A H3N8 virus adapted to infect canines, with the first cases among dogs diagnosed in 2004.
2. How concerned should Concord’s dog owners be that canine influenza is now in Massachusetts?
Dr. Wilson: Dog owners shouldn’t panic, but they need to be informed and to take steps to protect their dogs from this extremely contagious virus. Most dogs exposed to canine influenza contract this disease.
While this virus is extremely contagious among dogs, it is rarely life-threatening. Most dogs recover in a couple of weeks. Some never show symptoms at all. Very rarely canine influenza can lead to pneumonia that requires hospitalization. Young or old dogs with existing respiratory issues are at the greatest risk.
If you suspect your dog has or has been exposed to canine influenza call our office immediately to make an appointment: 978-369-3503.
4. What symptoms should owners be looking for?
Dr. Wilson: If your dog contracts canine influenza, their symptoms will look similar to ours when we have the flu. Your dog might cough, have a runny nose, be lethargic and have a fever. They might not seem like themselves: not wanting to play or not greeting you at the door.
The telltale sign that tends to tip owners off is the cough, which often sounds like something is caught in your dog’s throat. Be sure to reach out to us right away if your dog is coughing. Let our receptionist know if you think it’s possible that your dog has contracted canine influenza so that we can treat your dog while keeping our other patients safe.
The virus and its corresponding symptoms typically run their course in about two weeks. While there is no treatment available to shorten the length of the illness, we can provide fluids or treat the cough and secondary infections that often accompany canine influenza. This will make your dog more comfortable as the flu runs its course.
5. What can dog owners do to prevent their dogs from contracting canine influenza?
Dr. Wilson: There is a canine influenza vaccine. Similar to human flu vaccines, it doesn’t protect against every strain of influenza but can reduce the length and severity of the illness for influenza strains it doesn’t fully cover.
At Concord Animal Hospital, we typically recommend that dogs that frequent dog parks or who are in doggie day care or kennels get a canine influenza vaccine. However, given that we know the virus is now in Massachusetts, we want to be proactive to protect our canine patients. Dog owners should call to discuss whether your dog should get the vaccine given their lifestyle and health.
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