Party of one Dog flu unleashed
You have a new flu to worry about, Fairfield County — the dog flu.
Unlike other animal-named influenzas such as swine and bird, this one only affects the species it is named after and not humans, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, along with a local kennel cough outbreak, it has been hitting our four-pawed friends pretty hard around the country and now locally.
A few pet day care and boarding services in the area closed their kennels and play areas this week not only to scour and disinfect their facilities but also to keep dogs apart from one another in an effort to stop the spread of the disease. Like human flu, canine influenza is a highly contagious respiratory disease. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dog flu spreads through virus-infected droplets sprayed from coughing, sneezing and even barking. The virus can also live 12 to 24 hours on objects such as toys, leashes, water bowls or even the human hand.
“If an infected dog picks up a tennis ball & drops it & your dog picks it up chances are your dog now has a virus,” Wagmore kennels and boarding in the South End posted on its Facebook page July 22 in announcing it would stay closed for the week. “Until this has cleared the area, we are suggesting everyone use caution & limit your dogs’ exposure to other dogs.”
This is why when I brought my 12-year-old Labrador retriever to High Ridge Animal Hospital on a suspected flu case the vet and assistant — dressed in gowns, masks and goggles — examined him in the parking lot in the rear cargo area of my daughter’s crossover. (Good news, for us: probably no dog flu, just a more common case of a Lab being a Lab and eating something he shouldn’t have.)
We are the latest place in the United States to be hit with the canine flu. Hundreds of cases have been reported since the spring in California, northwest Arkansas, metropolitan Detroit, Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York.
While most dogs with the canine flu recover within a few weeks, it can lead to secondary infections, pneumonia or, in a small fraction of cases, death. No one wants any of those for their best furry friends so there are few things to do.
First, get your pet the canine influenza vaccine — especially if he or she is a social animal who frequents dog parks, kennels or day care facilities. Like the human vaccine, it may not be foolproof but it offers some protection and should help lessen the symptoms and duration if your dog contacts the virus.
Next, watch out for the common symptoms of dog flu:
Runny nose and/or eye discharge;
Low-grade fever (for dogs, that’s 103-104 degrees Fahrenheit).
A lack of energy.
Loss of appetite
Note that not all dogs show signs of the illness, though, and sometimes when they do it might be a week or more after contracting the virus.
Finally, let’s be careful out there, dog owners and lovers. Keep your pups home and away from other dogs for the time being if you can. Resist the temptation to pet and play with other dogs. OK — that’s impossible — so if you do, wash your hands thoroughly before you bring Rover home an unwelcome gift.
Stamford native and resident Kevin McKeever, whose nationally award-winning column appears here every other Friday, is a freelance writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org .