Canine Influenza: How to Keep Your Dog Safe

By Sarah Foster, KPA CTP | July 15, 2015

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The Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) is an unwelcome visitor to Georgia. Earlier this year, the virus spread throughout Chicago and parts of the Midwest. The strain in Georgia is the same one: H3N2, which before Chicago, was only found in Asia. It is unknown how much protection the CIV vaccine offers against this newer strain.

To help our dogs avoid infection, let’s explore the symptoms of CIV and discuss best steps to help keep our dogs well.

Because this is a new disease in the U.S., dogs here don’t have immunity against CIV. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), all dogs who come in contact with CIV become infected, with 80% showing clinical signs.

Call your vet if you observe:
◦ Soft, moist cough or dry cough;
◦ Sneezing and discharge from the eyes and/or nose;
◦ Lethargy;
◦ Reduced appetite; and
◦ Fever.

The risk for dogs is much higher in venues where dogs gather because the infection spreads through dog respiratory secretions and contaminated objects.

The American Veterinary Medical Association states that “dog owners involved in shows, sports, or other activities with their dogs or who board their dogs at kennels should ask whether respiratory disease has been a problem there, and whether the facility has a plan for isolating dogs that develop respiratory disease and for notifying owners if their dogs have been exposed to dogs with respiratory disease.”

It’s important that owners also do their part and inform staff of vet clinics, boarding facilities, doggie daycares, groomers, and training facilities about any concerning symptoms. This is critical for halting the virus’s spread.

Care should be taken especially with puppies, pregnant dogs, elderly dogs, and dogs who are immunocompromised. These dogs are more susceptible to developing pneumonia caused by CIV. The fatality rate for all infected dogs is a little less than 10%. If you have any concerns for your dog, please contact your vet clinic.

If you don’t frequent areas where many dogs gather, still be alert about greetings between dogs on leashes. It’s best to avoid nose-to-nose greetings on leash because some dogs don’t like those sorts of greetings and can react out of fear. With CIV hitting so close to home, avoiding these sorts of interactions is even more important because the disease can be passed on from nasal secretions.

For people who are worried about whether their local dog park is safe, consider some alternatives. In-home small playgroups of dogs who are well known to each other and play well together may be a safer substitute for excursions to dog parks.

Another way to help dogs burn off some energy at home is to play training games. Check out this video that offers tips and recommended interactive puzzle and food toys for your dog. Or, play Find It, which is a game that most dogs love. For more fun, check out this post on shaping games.

Cold Nose College Atlanta recently cancelled its group classes at Gwinnett Animal Hospital in Snellville out of caution for the dogs. The virus has hit surrounding areas, and it seemed prudent to simply reschedule classes for later in the year. While we are disappointed, we are excited about the offerings that we are working on for the fall classes.

Georgia may be famous for its Southern hospitality, but in the case of CIV, we need to hide the welcome mat, turn off the lights and don’t let it near our dogs.

Sarah Foster is a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner, and a professional member of the Pet Professional Guild and the Association for Talent Development. 

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