September 13, 2018
by LG Nixon
Labor Day has come and gone. Up next are the holidays with gatherings of friends and family,
fresh snow, and relaxing by a roaring fire with a cup of mulled cider with a warm, yummy donut. Along
with the cooler temperatures come opportunities for a rise in colds and influenza. Those nasty little
viruses and bacteria like to congregate were people gather. Most people will seek out their doctors advice
and get flu and pneumonia vaccines. But what about Fido?
Recently, we were traveling with our Boxer puppy, Cali Anne. We stayed at a lovely RV park
where Cali made several new friends and playmates. By the time we returned home, she was sneezing,
had an extremely runny nose, discharge from the eyes, and was tired after a few minutes of play.
What was going on? I had just heard about the availability of a vaccine for the Canine Influenza,
a highly contagious infectious virus that has been on the upswing. Could she have picked up the flu?
Our veterinarian examined her, determining she had a bad cold, or more specifically, a mild strain
of Kennel Cough, better known as Bordetella. There are numerous strains of this bacteria, ranging from
the mild cold-like symptoms to the more serious respiratory illness. Bordetella itself is not fatal, however,
it can lead to complications and pneumonia in young puppies and immune-compromised senior dogs. While Cali is up-to-date on all her vaccines, including Bordetella, which protects her from the more
serious strains, she was still able to pick up ‘a cold.’ This cold takes about five to seven days to incubate,
and once it presents, it will take another five to seven days to resolve. Bingo – she was feeling better a few
Bordetella, commonly called Kennel Cough, is spread much like a cold in a grade-school
environment. Contaminated surfaces like shared toys, water and food bowls, dog parks, kennel-runs and
daycare facilities are all prime targets for holding bacteria. Although most facilities try to be fastidious
about cleanliness, Fido is still able to pick up a virus or bacteria wherever canines congregate, and he can
also pick it up through aerosol contact of droplets, or rubbing noses with a fellow canine. Daycares and
kennels require proof of Bordetella, and all major vaccinations, and most are now requiring the Canine
Influenza vaccines before your pet will be able to participate.
Canine Influenza is relatively new and actually consists of two different strains, H3N8, which
began as an equine influenza, and H3N2 which adapted from an Asian avian influenza origin. Vaccines
have been developed for both strains and are given twice, at two to four week intervals. A booster is
required annually to keep your pet protected. Because there is a lack of previous exposure to these
viruses, dogs have not developed a natural immunity to them. Two outbreaks of the viruses occurred at
racetracks where horse and dog races were regularly held. At a Florida racetrack in January 2004, the
H3N8 virus was found to be the cause of several Greyhound fatalities, and the H3N8 virus was
responsible for a major outbreak of canine influenza in New York state in all breeds of dogs in 2005. You
can find more information about Canine Influenza at petmd.com, or at wikipedia.org under Canine
Runny noses, a decrease in appetite, and tiredness indicate your buddy is not feeling well. While
most of these instances will resolve in five to seven days, a trip to the vet is a wise move to be sure
nothing more serious is going on. If your pet is running a fever, this is a big indication there may be a
secondary infection at play. Your veterinarian will be able to offer care and nutrition advice as well as
antibiotics for infections. If your veterinarian suspects Canine Influenza, a serum sample will be obtained
and submitted to a laboratory to test for the virus.
A pet who has been vaccinated for all major causes of disease and kennel cough, and still presents
with an upper respiratory infection, raises suspicion of canine influenza. Symptoms for a mild form
include a persistent cough, green tinted nasal discharge, and reduced energy and appetite. These
symptoms can last from ten to thirty days. Pets with a more severe form will have a fever and are at risk
of developing pneumonia.
Though pneumonia is not caused by the influenza virus, a compromised or weakened immune
system can easily be affected by a secondary bacterial infection. It is critical to seek medical advise and
not wait as pneumonia can develop quickly. It is difficult for Fido to recover without proper medical
treatment. A fatality rate of nearly 50% in dogs who do not receive medical treatment and develop
pneumonia as a secondary infection is heartbreaking. Please seek medical advice.
As of early August 2018, the confirmed cases of Canine Influenza in Michigan has risen
significantly over last year. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 80% of dogs
infected will develop flu-like symptoms. It also is noted, this virus can be spread to cats in the household.
While it does not affect humans, humans can spread the virus by skin and clothing which has been
contaminated with the virus. It is recommended that cats be isolated from any dog(s) presenting with
symptoms. Meow-man will thank you.
The virus has been reported in ten counties across Michigan, including Kent County, although
confirmed numbers for the virus were low at three reported cases. Oakland County holds the most
confirmed cases at forty-two, and Macomb County reported in at twenty-seven cases. For further
information, please go to michigan.gov/MDARD. Or, read the August 17 issue of MLive.com Canine
Influenza Cases Rising in Michigan, Does Your Dog Have Symptoms?
After our visit to the veterinarian, we learned that this summer has seen a bumper crop of sick
pets. At least three of the animal hospitals and clinics I have contact with report a huge spike in sick pets
this summer, with many clients presenting with running noses, nasal discharge, coughing and lethargy.
Last year only nine cases of confirmed influenza were reported, whereas this year-to-date has seen
seventy cases of influenza.
Your sweet buddy depends on you for his wellbeing. Please check with your veterinarian for
further information. And keep a box of tissue handy just in case.