I’m not a meteorologist, but this winter has seemed colder and longer than most. Maybe that’s true, maybe I’m just getting older. Happily, spring is on its way, the days are longer and now it will be warm and rainy, not cold and snowy.
Perhaps going hand in hand with the bad weather is an especially bad flu season for people. Canine influenza has recently been in the news in the Pacific Northwest, a dog in the Puget Sound region tested positive for the H2N3 strain of canine influenza this month (March). This is the same strain that was found in the 2016 cases from Kent. There was an outbreak of this strain in Northern California earlier this year and it has seemed to found its way up the coast. Of the two strains we see in dogs, this one is shed by an infected dog longer, for up to 24 days. Canine influenza is similar to human influenza in that the symptoms can vary from mild disease, that can be confused with kennel cough complex, to severe pneumonia and rarely, death. Most cases, like in people, are mild and self-limiting. Dogs at the highest risk are dogs that are the most social: boarding, grooming, doggy daycare, dog parks, and dog shows. However, the virus can be spread among people and objects. So you could bring home the virus to your dog if you are exposed to an infected dog. Pet care workers need to be especially careful to practice good disinfection routines to prevent spreading infection from dog to dog.
Vaccination against canine influenza is available. Just like in humans, vaccination doesn’t prevent infection but does decrease the severity of the infection. The newest vaccine has both strains H2N3 (avian) and H3N8 (equine.) Two vaccines 2-4 weeks apart are required initially, then the yearly booster after that. Protection from the vaccine may take up to 1 week after the second vaccination. If you feel your dog is high risk, then contact your veterinarian to start the vaccinations, and keep them up to date. But until the immunity from the vaccine kicks in (3 weeks minimum if you get the first shot and booster in 2 weeks) consider avoiding at-risk activities for your dog. Give your vet a call, we can help you figure out what makes sense.
Now for my public service announcements:
The temperature is rising and the fleas are coming, in fact, I’ve already seen a few pets with fleas. Now is the time to start on flea medication BEFORE your pet and house are infested. I’m really happy with the results we are seeing with the newer generation oral once monthly flea and tick medications. I love that I don’t get the medicine all over me and my family, like I do with topical medications. And the side effects from the oral products are so rare. Talk to your vet, and get on the “ounce of cure” bandwagon. Avoid having to use a “pound of cure” to treat an infestation.
Next, I know many people feed raw, frozen, freeze dried or air dried food to their pets and their pets show great improvement on the food. I also know there is a US vs. THEM mentality between veterinarians and raw food proponents. I honestly don’t try to talk people out of feeding raw food, I just like to make sure they know the risks feeding raw food to their pet and handling it in their home. The FDA has helpful information on their page titled Get the Facts! Raw Pet Food Diets can be Dangerous to You and Your Pet. I have a link to the webpage on our website on the internet resources page. Most importantly, knowing the risk of exposure to bacteria that can cause disease in humans and how to safely handle and disinfect when feeding raw food to decrease risks to you, your family and your pet.
Finally, I wanted to re-visit the importance of permanent identification of your pet. We don’t have an animal control facility in Maple Valley. Any strays have to be taken to the Regional Animal Control Services for King County (RACSKC) facility in Kent. All the vet clinics in Maple Valley are able to scan a pet for a microchip. If we can find the owner, the pet doesn’t have to go to the animal control facility. But if we can’t find the owner, we aren’t able to house stray pets. A microchip is the most permanent form of identification. Because tags can fall off, I also like a collar embroidered the pet’s name and owners phone number.
As usual, feel free to contact me with questions, comments and ideas for future articles, [email protected]. You can also visit our website wildernessvet.com and our Facebook page. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone in the Maple Valley Parade and the Farmers’ Market this summer.