These days, even Fido has to fear the flu. The H3N8 influenza virus – or canine flu – affects dogs of all ages and can cause serious flu-like symptoms for a couple weeks. Outbreaks of canine flu have already affected dogs in 33 states and are likely to spread. Just this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved a flu vaccine for canines, but not every dog may need it.
“If you are concerned about canine influenza, talk to your vet,” said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List, the nation’s leading provider of consumer reviews
on service categories ranging from veterinarians to kennels. “If you frequently take your dog to the bark park or doggie daycare, then it may be a good idea. If not, you might be able to skip it.”
The canine flu started in horses and spread to dogs in 2004 in Florida. The Centers for Disease Control says humans are not at risk of this flu virus.
Symptoms in dogs include a persistent cough and runny nose along with a fever and could last at least 10 days. Some dogs could have more severe problems with the flu, including difficulty breathing caused by pneumonia.
Angie’s List surveyed highly rated veterinarians nationwide to get the details on what dog owners need to know about canine influenza.
Dogs MOST at Risk of Canine Influenza:
What to Do if Your Dog Exhibits Flu Symptoms:
- Young and older dogs are more susceptible to the more serious form of the disease.
- If you’ve recently adopted a dog from an animal shelter, rescue group or pet store, it has a higher risk of coming in contact with the canine flu virus.
- Other high risk areas for dogs include dog parks, kennels, and doggie daycare.
- While 33 states have reported cases of canine flu, if you live in (or your dog has recently visited) Colorado, Florida, New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania, your dog has a higher risk of getting the virus. More cases have been reported in these areas.
- Call your veterinarian immediately. If your dog is coughing, inform the office staff so they can avoid spreading the disease in the waiting room.
- Local veterinarians know how high the influenza risk is for their practice areas. Discuss whether your dog needs the vaccine.
- Dogs that already have the flu may need the vaccine because it can reduce the duration and severity of illness.
- Use grooming facilities and boarding facilities which are reputable and at which you feel comfortable. Ask the facilities what steps they will take if dogs appear ill.
Angie’s List Tips for Picking the Right Vet:
- The worst time to look for a vet is when you really need one – plan ahead and choose wisely. If you’re thinking about adding a pet to the family, it’s a good idea to find a vet, before you adopt a pet.
- It’s very important for you take your pet to the vet regularly for preventative care and also to potentially diagnose problems early. This is going to save you money in the long run and keep your pet healthier. If you try to “wait out an illness” you’ll likely end up with a very sick pet and a larger medical bill.
- Bring in your pet to meet the veterinarian. Not all pets will enjoy going to the vet, but it is important that your pet appears to be at ease in his/her care.
- Ask about the veterinary technicians. Vet techs do many procedures from preparing dogs for surgery to drawing blood.
- Check credentials. Is the doctor a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association?
- Office hours are important. Does the office provide emergency care when closed? Is the vet available during crisis situations? Do they have a 24-hour monitoring service or leave the animals alone?
- If you need help with the costs, ask the vet about a payment plan? Many veterinarians are willing to work out a weekly or monthly payment plan so that you do not have to pay the entire costs of veterinary care up front. Do they offer discounts for multi-pet households?
- Prepare for routine pet-care costs. Regularly set aside money to cover for unexpected vet bills or consider pet health insurance.
- Pet owners should talk with their vets to come up with a vaccine program, because vaccines are no longer one size fits all. You need to factor in your pet’s age and lifestyle too. Then set up a schedule with your vet and keep an accurate record of the vaccine.
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