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Speaking of Pets: Sick as a dog?

Canine influenza is in most states, including Colorado

Joan Merriam
Speaking of Pets
Canine influenza can spread when infected dogs cough, bark, sneeze or when uninfected dogs come into contact with toys, food or water bowls, or other objects that an infected dog has used. (Isabela Kronemberger, Special to the Daily)

This highly contagious illness began as an isolated episode of respiratory disease in one state, and has now swept into forty states. So, what is this disease?

Canine influenza.

Contagiousness

Although human and canine flu are completely different viruses, both can be potentially serious and highly contagious diseases. In fact, unless a dog has already had the illness and recovered, almost every dog that’s exposed will become infected. It can spread when infected dogs cough, bark, sneeze or when uninfected dogs come into contact with toys, food or water bowls, or other objects that an infected dog has used.



The dog flu is most likely to spread in situations where numbers of dogs mix and mingle: dog parks, doggie day care and boarding facilities.

Symptoms

About two to three days after infection, your dog will develop either a wet or dry, barking cough similar to kennel cough, often accompanied by sneezing, a nasal and eye discharge, fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite.



Most dogs will recover within two to three weeks — but if they develop clinical signs of pneumonia like raspy, labored and rapid breathing, then call your veterinarian immediately.

Immunizations

Because not all dogs participate in activities that encourage the spread of the disease, not all dogs automatically need to be vaccinated. You should discuss with your veterinarian your dog’s lifestyle and the degree to which it’s in close contact with large numbers of other dogs. That will indicate if your dog is at significant risk for exposure, and will help you both decide if vaccination is appropriate.

Prepare for the possibility of a canine influenza outbreak by talking to your veterinarian and educating yourself about the disease. It’s slithered its way into most states so far — including Colorado — so it could easily rear its ugly head again and take a toll on the health of our canine companions.

Joan Merriam lives in Northern California with her golden retriever Joey and Maine coon cat Indy. She emphasizes that she’s not a veterinarian or animal behaviorist — just an animal lover who’s been writing about pets since 2012. You can reach her at joan@joanmerriam.com.


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