Pet Connection

Canine Flu Tips

The viral disease can spread easily, but common-sense precautions can help keep dogs safe

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

An eight-state outbreak of canine influenza is causing dog-show exhibitors to keep their dogs home and the American Kennel Club to advise judges that exhibitors should display the dogs’ teeth themselves. Pet dogs are at risk if they frequent dog parks or other areas where dogs come in contact with each other. The H3N2 strain has been documented in 30 states, including Florida, which reported its first cases earlier this month, and H3N8 has been found in 42 states, plus Washington, D.C.

The H3N2 strain primarily affects dogs, but last March, the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine and the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory documented that the strain had infected a group of cats in the Midwest and could spread from cat to cat. The disease is not transmissible to humans.

While most dogs who encounter the highly contagious virus develop a mild or subclinical case and recover in two to four weeks without serious problems, that doesn’t mean the disease is harmless. A small percentage of dogs can develop a severe form that may lead to pneumonia caused by a secondary bacterial infection. They may need antibiotics, fluids or even hospitalization. The fatality rate is less than 10 percent.

Dogs in frequent contact with other dogs -- at parks, boarding or daycare facilities, animal shelters, pet stores, grooming salons, dog shows or other events -- are at highest risk. Up to 80 percent of dogs exposed to the virus will contract it.

The airborne virus is transmitted by contact with infected dogs or contaminated items, such as pet dishes, leashes, crates or kennels. The virus can survive up to 24 hours on soft surfaces, such as bedding, and up to 48 hours on hard surfaces, such as flooring. Persons handling an infected dog and then an uninfected dog without first disinfecting their hands can also spread the disease.

Dogs who show clinical signs can be infective for 28 days from the time they are exposed to the virus. Infected dogs without clinical signs -- a dry, hacking cough; appetite loss; lethargy; runny nose or eyes; and fever -- can spread canine flu as well.

Once dogs are exposed to the virus, they show signs within 24 to 48 hours. If you suspect your dog has canine flu, call your veterinarian for advice. To avoid spreading canine flu, your veterinarian may request that you not bring your dog to the clinic or that you follow specific safety precautions before doing so.

A double-dose vaccine is available to protect dogs. The second dose is administered two weeks after the first. The vaccine protects against the H3N2 and H3N8 strains of the canine flu virus. Immunity typically kicks in within one to two weeks of the booster vaccine.

To reduce the risk of a dog contracting canine flu or to prevent spreading the disease, experts recommend the following tips:

-- Keep sick dogs separate from healthy dogs for up to 30 days after signs diminish.

-- Wash hands frequently, especially if handling one dog after another. At dog shows, judges should use hand sanitizer after examining each dog. Exhibitors should consider grooming dogs at their cars instead of at grooming areas in proximity to other dogs.

-- Use easily sanitized stainless steel or ceramic dog bowls.

-- Clean bowls, tables, crates and other items with a solution of one part bleach to 30 parts water and let air-dry for at least 10 minutes before use. Bleach breaks down quickly, so make a new solution daily. Use paper towels instead of cloth to wipe down hard surfaces.

Q&A

A dog’s ear:

How it works

Q: I’m fascinated by my dog’s keen sense of hearing and ability to move his ears. Could you explain a little about canine ear anatomy and function? -- via Facebook

A: You are right to be amazed by your dog’s hearing ability. The ears are delicate, sensitive, finely tuned instruments that allow dogs to stay alert to sounds beyond human abilities to hear.

The ear has three main parts: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear.

The outer ear begins with the pinna, also known as the auricle. It’s sort of a funnel-shaped flap that traps sound waves. The muscles surrounding it are what allow a dog to twitch and turn his ears to capture sounds. Inside the ear, a long L-shaped canal leads to the middle ear.

The middle ear processes the sound waves captured by the pinna. It consists of the tympanic cavity, the eardrum and the auditory ossicles. The latter are a series of tiny bones known as the hammer (malleus), anvil (incus) and stirrup (stapes).

Sound waves travel down the ear to the eardrum. There, the auditory ossicles transmit them across the middle ear to the inner ear. The cochlea, a snail-shaped tube, converts sound vibrations into messages transmitted to the brain by the auditory nerve. There, the messages are translated into meaningful sounds. All of this occurs instantaneously.

The inner ear also governs the dog’s sense of balance. It contains three small, semicircular tubes filled with fluid, known as canals. The canals are lined with fine hairs that record movement of the fluid and changes in the dog’s posture and position, transmitting the information to the brain via the auditory nerve. The canals, combined with what’s known as the otolith organs, direct nerve impulses that help dogs stay balanced and upright. -- Dr. Marty Becker

Do you have a pet question? Send it to askpetconnection@gmail.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.

THE BUZZ

How to survive

cat teenhood

-- Is your cat 6 to 18 months old? That age range is when kittens morph from cute to cat. Like human teenagers, adolescent cats are ready to display their independence and show the world what they can do -- whether that’s making the biggest scratches on the furniture, marking their territory with urine, or (if they aren’t yet altered) yowling and prowling in search of a companion with whom they can procreate. The good news is that the adolescent stage doesn’t last forever. Get through it by channeling feline energy through puzzle toys, play time and trick training, and spaying or neutering your pet if the surgery hasn’t already been done. Before you know it, your kitten will have moved from sulky adolescence to cool-cat adulthood.

-- Dogs can behave aggressively for many reasons. They may be defending their territory, food or toys; protecting family members or puppies; or fearful of a person or situation. Other times, they react aggressively because they are in pain from an injury or health problem. Signs of aggression include growling, snapping, biting, chasing, staring and standing stiffly. Instead of punishing the dog, schedule a veterinary visit to rule out physical causes. If your dog gets a clean bill of health, ask your veterinarian for a referral to a veterinary behaviorist or experienced dog trainer to help you determine the cause and use Fear Free techniques to set boundaries and modify the behavior.

-- Help your pet stay safe in summer heat. Dogs and cats with light-colored coats or hairless bodies need protection with pet-safe sunscreen when they are outdoors. All pets need easy access to fresh, cool water. Dogs who go swimming need a thorough freshwater rinse and a complete drying afterward to prevent skin and ear infections. Happy summer! -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker

ABOUT PET CONNECTION

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.

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