I thought our whole family had gotten flu shots this year until while planning to leave for a holiday trip it was realized we’d forgotten someone … our puppy. The boarding kennel she was going to stay at asked us as we made arrangements for her stay if our dog had been given a flu shot. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, cases of the dog flu have been on the rise in recent years with thousands of dogs getting sick in 2018 alone. Holiday travel opens up chances your canine companion will be exposed to it by staying at a kennel, meeting other pups at family gatherings or being exposed to the bug lingering around airports and other transportation related places where people may be traveling with their pets. So what should pet owners know to avoid dog flu ruining your holiday travel plans?
Wanting to know more, I discusses this matter with VetSurg veterinarian Courtney Campbell. Doctor Campbell co-hosted Nat Geo Wild’s Pet Talk, is a spokesperson for Merck Animal Health, and a frequent guest on the Rachael Ray and Live with Kelly and Ryan television show. He had a lot of useful information about the dog flu as well as holiday pet travel tips to share during our Traveling Dad interview:
QUESTION: I HAVE TO ADMIT NOT BEING TOO FAMILIAR WITH THE DOG FLU. WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR PEOPLE TO BE AWARE OF IT AND TAKE PRECAUTIONS WHEN IT COMES TO HOLIDAY TRAVEL AND THEIR PETS?
ANSWER: I’m glad you mentioned that … it is a topic that needs more awareness with pet owners. The holiday travel season is a critical time of the year to bring awareness to dog flu because it is a virus that is very contagious and has affected thousands of dogs in all 50 States. You can get the flu and so can your dog! Dogs of any breed, age, sex or health status are at risk of infection when exposed to the virus. The number one thing I want to emphasize in our discussion is the fact that canine influenza is affecting a lot of dogs but it can be prevented through vaccination.
It is important to be discussing dog flu because dogs are coming into contact with each other either through traveling with their families or being boarded while their owners are away for the holidays. Pet parents need to take the precautions necessary to keep their dog safe when exposed to other animals to avoid it coming home with the dog flu. Dog flu is very contagious and easily spread from dog to dog by direct contact, nasal secretions (through barking, coughing or sneezing), contaminated objects (kennel surfaces, food and water bowls, collars and leashes), and people moving between infected and uninfected dogs.
QUESTION: ARE THERE SYMPTOMS TO LOOK FOR THAT INDICATE OUR DOG MIGHT HAVE THE FLU?
ANSWER: A lot of people have had the flu and they’ve been knocked out on the couch or in bed for a week really sick. It is a different type of virus impacting dogs but the flu still makes your pet really sick just like us. In fact, dogs often get sicker than us from the flu developing pneumonia and it causes some serious issues in their lungs. So it is important for pet parents to be on the look out for dog flu symptoms.
If your dog is coughing, sneezing, doesn’t want to eat, or just seems lethargic those are all warning signs of a respiratory illness. Because those could be a sign of dog flu, or other ailments, it is important to bring your dog to a veterinarian if you see these symptoms.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO PROTECT OUR DOG FROM CATCHING THE FLU?
ANSWER: Number one → VACCINATE! This is by far the biggest protector of dogs from this illness. Also be aware there are two strains of dog flu so it is important to talk with your veterinarian about getting a vaccine that protects my dog from both of these strains. The catch word or medical term for that is BIVALENT and it is important to ask your veterinarian for a bivalent vaccine that will protect your pet against both strains of the dog flu.
QUESTION: WHAT OTHER HEALTH ISSUES SHOULD DOG OWNERS KEEP IN MIND IF THEY’RE TRAVLING WITH THEIR PETS DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON?
ANSWER: After the dog flu the most common reason we see dogs come into my vet clinic ill during the holidays is because a pet has been fed people food. While it may be delicious for the dog to eat it will often make the animal a bit sick to its stomach. Other things to be concerned about include drinking anti-freeze when it is cold outside or eating the holiday decorations around a house or yard. Also when the weather is frigid being exposed to inclement weather outside can cause illness and frostbite. These are all things to think about, especially if you are not staying at home with your dog during the holidays and are outside you and your pet’s normal routines while traveling.
QUESTION: ANY STEPS TO TAKE IF YOU HAPPEN TO BE LEAVING YOUR DOG IN A KENNEL WHEN IT COMES TO DOG FLU?
ANSWER: I think most boarding and kennel facilities are just as concerned about this topic as pet owners. They want to make sure that all the pets that stay with them are safe. They don’t want to see an outbreak of dog flu in their population. Ask the place where your dog is staying how they handle dog flu. With you now understanding dog flu is a serious issue to be aware of, their answer should let you know if this is the type of place you want your pet to stay at.
QUESTION: WHERE CAN WE GO TO GET MORE INFORMATION ABOUT DOG FLU?
ANSWER: If pet parents want to learn more they can simply go to DOGFLU.COM. I love that this website address is easy to remember and that it is incredibly interactive. There is also a great free book called “PET PARENTS GUIDE TO INFECTIOUS DISEASES” that I had the honor of writing along with Dr. Katherine Primm. Also tune in to my DR. COURTNEY SHOW podcast where I talk about topics like the dog flu.