By Natalie Lester, PetSafe Brand Marketing Specialist
January hasn’t been too cold here in Knoxville, and it doesn’t seem too many people have been sick. Yet, I have been extra careful about germs this month because I forgot to get my flu shot last season. And, who has time to be stuck at home sick for a week? Even if you do have time, why on earth would you want to?
As I was thinking about my lack of planning for that shot yesterday, I reached down to pet one of my favorite office dogs Ellie (Laura wrote about her here). I started to wonder about what would happen if our dogs got the flu, and what measures should be taken to prevent it. I thought it must be similar to our experience with a week of a fever, stuffy nose, and body aches. Boy, was I wrong!
I called Dr. Monica Webb at Countryside Vet Services here in Knoxville to set the record straight. There were a few things I was right about, but for the most part I had it all wrong. Read on to find out how to keep your dog from getting the flu and what to do if he gets it, along with other helpful facts:
- Puppies should be vaccinated for the flu along with their other shots. It is a two part installment with 2 to 4 weeks between the shots. After they are vaccinated, it is an annual shot just like us. Depending on your clinic, the shots will typically cost you between $20 and $40.
- There isn’t a “flu season” for dogs like there is for humans. So, don’t be fooled by the warm weather in the summer. Dr. Webb said there was an outbreak in Atlanta a few summers ago, and she was right. In fact, the disease spread across the U.S. in 2009, but there have not been very many outbreaks since then.
- Symptoms are somewhat similar to what we experience including coughing and running a fever. However, the flu will also lead to vomiting for dogs. It may also lead to pneumonia.
If your pet does catch the disease, treatment is quite different for our pets than it is for humans. Dogs must be hospitalized and administered antibiotics and fluids through an IV, which makes our week on the couch with over-the-counter meds sound like a piece of cake. They also have to be patted on the chest, referred to as coupage, to loosen up the flem from their respiratory tracks.
- All dogs are equal in the chances to succumb to the disease. We tend to worry about the young and elderly in our society, but all dogs are the same and should be vaccinated to prevent infection.
- Most often the flu spreads through dog-to-dog contact, but it can be airborne too. Dr. Webb said owners should worry most when their dogs have been exposed to many dogs, especially if they have been traveling in different kennels, boarding facilities or grooming shops. It is even possible for a dog, who is showing no symptoms, to have the flu and be contagious. “As our work becomes more and more pet friendly with dogs on the patios of restaurants and other public places, our dogs are exposed to more and more germs,” Dr. Webb said.
- One of the biggest differences between pets and humans getting the flu is the mortality rate. Dr. Webb said about 8 percent of the dogs who catch the flu die from it. It is much more severe than the human virus. Dr. Webb had the perfect analogy. “The flu for dogs is like the swine flu for humans,” she said. “Where we weren’t exposed to that strand, the same is true for the dogs with the flu. They are immunologically naive.
If you suspect your dog has the flu, visit your vet immediately. Dr. Webb recently treated a dog with the virus and she said he is perfectly healthy now.
Has your dog ever had the flu? What steps do you take to be sure he stays healthy?
As the PetSafe Brand Marketing Specialist, Natalie manages The Paw Print blog and generates other brand related content including public relations and promotions. Before PetSafe, Natalie worked in the local media covering politics, education, and religion. She is a substitute pet owner to a German shorthaired pointer named Bedford in Abingdon, VA, Frenchie the schnoodle in Lenoir City, TN, and all the office dogs at PetSafe’s headquarters in Knoxville. As a pet lover, she is currently searching for the perfect puppy to join her home.