H1N1. The “Swine Flu”. Are you vaccinated against it? The government thinks there’s a couple groups of people who really should be; the very young, the elderly, pregnant women, healthcare employees, etc. etc. These people are at a high risk  of being affected by the virus due to exposure or decreased immune systems.

Did you know that your dog can get the flu? It isn’t H1N1, it’s called H3N8. From here on out, I’m going to call it “CIV” or the “Canine influenza virus”. The CIV is a subtype of the Influenze A virus that is endemic to birds, horses and dogs. The most recent outbreak has been blamed on horse racing tracks in the southern states of North America. It is believed the horses passed the virus on to the greyhounds that race at those tracks, and then go on to be shipped all over the country in the racing circuit.

Outbreaks have spread through many states now, including Virginia and Pennsylvania.

So what are the signs of CIV?

*Cough

*Runny nose

*Discharge from the eyes

*Fever

*Loss of appetite

*Weakness and lethargy

**BUT be warned… these are symptoms of more than one illness that can     affect dogs.

How is H3N8 diagnosed?

H3N8 is difficult to test for due to the series of shedding the virus goes through. Essentially, the best way available is to test respiratory secretions or blood from the sick animal. Ideally, it is best to test 1 sample as soon as the animal falls ill and a second sample 14 days later.

How is H3N8 treated?

Just like the flu that it is. For animals that are stable, antibiotics can be used to try to lessen the severity of infection. For animals that are not stable, supportive care is offered in the form of fluid therapy and monitoring. Once the animal is infected, the virus needs to run its course.

One of the most important things to remember is PREVENTING the continued spread of the virus. Once your animal has been diagnosed with the disease- take measures to prevent it from being spread to other animals.

How do I prevent my animal from spreading the virus?

Limit the exposure of other animals to your pet- This may mean isolating the animal from other animals all together. If you have to walk your dog to a park to relieve themselves, try to do it at the least busy times- but remember- your dog does NOT have to have direct contact with another animal to spread the virus.

Clean, clean, clean- Clean. Clean your home thoroughly with an antibacterial cleaner before you allow friends and family to bring their animals over. Soak dog toys in a safely diluted bleach solution. If you have plastic food and water bowls- throw them out and get stainless steel (which is a good idea, anyway…). Wash any pet bedding in colorsafe bleach and hot water. If your dog sleeps on the furniture, spray the furniture with an antibacterial product. If the dog sleeps on your bed- wash your sheets in the same way you do pet bedding.

What can I do to protect my dog?

In July, 2009 a CIV vaccination was released. You can talk to your vet about getting your dog vaccinated. As a general rule, any dog that gets the bordatella vaccine should get the CIV vaccine as well. Any dog that is exposed to other animals (boarding kennels, training classes, dog parks, pet store visits, etc) should be protected. The vaccine has an initial protocol of 1 vaccine, followed by a booster in 3-4 weeks. Yearly protocol can then be followed like a normal vaccination.

***Note: The vaccine does NOT offer 100% protection from the virus. Unfortunately, unless your dog lives in a bubble, it may still be exposed to the virus. The vaccination is designed to LESSEN the severity of the virus if it does infect your animal. That means, it will help to keep the symptoms more manageable and shorten the duration of the virus.

If you have further questions about the virus, please contact your vet or visit the Intervet Schering-Plough webiste @ http://www.doginfluenza.com/.

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