Chicago Urban Pets had the opportunity to connect with Dr. Natalie Marks with the Blum Animal Hospital and asked her questions about how to best handle the canine influenza when owning a dog or being a pet sitter in Chicago.
1. Why is the influenza in Chicago specifically?
The original strain of the dog flu, H3N8 has been present in the United States since 2003. However, in 2015 a new strain of the dog flu (also known as canine influenza H3N2), emerged and caused outbreaks in half of all U.S. states, including Chicago, IL. This strain is highly contagious and spreads quickly. Because H3N2 is a new strain, virtually all dogs have no natural immunity to the virus and are susceptible to infection.
2. How is the influenza spread from one dog to another?
Canine influenza can spread among social dogs in urban areas and places such as, doggie daycares, boarding facilities, dog parks, sporting and show events and any location where dogs comingle. Canine influenza can be transmitted from one dog to another through virus particles in the air via a cough or sneeze or through objects, such as food bowls and toys, that were touched by infected dogs.
3. As a petsitter, how likely is it we are spreading it from one household to another?
For petsitters, it is very easy to spread the dog flu from one household to another. As I had mentioned before, dogs can transmit the virus to one another through objects such as food bowls and toys. If a dog you were watching drank from a communal water bowl or played with the same toys as an infected dog, they would likely contract the dog flu. Humans can also transmit the virus between dogs through toys, shoes or doorknobs that an infected dog has had contact with.
4. What type of precautions should we take?
The best precaution to take is effective prevention. Fortunately, vaccines are available through U.S. veterinarians to protect your dogs. It’s important for dog owners to speak to their veterinarian about whether the dog flu vaccine should be added to their dog’s vaccination protocol. There’s also a website, www.doginfluenza.com, which offers great resources for pet owners on protecting their dog against the dog flu.
5. Can animals other than dogs get sick too?
Dogs are the primary species affected by canine influenza virus H3N2, but we know now cats can also contract this disease caused by this strain.
6. Is it true that it's only life threatening for puppies and senior dogs?
Canine influenza affects almost all dogs, regardless of age, because it is an emerging disease that dogs have no prior exposure to.
7. What should a dog owner do if they think their dog has the influenza?
Commons signs that pet owners should look out for include coughing, fever, sneezing, nasal or ocular discharge and lethargy. Owners who notice these signs in their dogs or suspect their dog may have canine influenza should seek care from their veterinarian right away and avoid letting their dog come in contact with other dogs. Make sure to alert your veterinary clinic so they can take precautions before you come in with a sick dog. This can help stop the spread of dogflu.
8. Does most dog insurances cover influenza?
Every pet insurance company is different in coverage based on the plan chosen for the patient and deductible.
9. What should I do if I have 2 dogs and one gets sick?
Unfortunately, canine influenza is extremely infectious, which means nearly 100 percent of affected dogs will show some signs of illness. Therefore, if one dog in a household becomes ill with canine influenza, it is almost certain that the housemate is already exposed and will potentially develop the same signs. It is important to monitor closely for coughing, lethargy, nasal discharge, lack of appetite and/or vomiting and use supportive care as needed. Both affected dogs should be kept isolated from communal dog areas for at least 3 weeks after onset of clinical signs due to the potential for extended shedding of the virus. Of course both dogs should receive veterinary care.
10. What does it cost on average for the pet owner if their dog gets sick? with insurance/ without?
It's hard to definitely state the cost of treating flu cases because the severity of cases vary. While some dogs have very mild signs similar to a bad cold and can be treated outpatient with cough suppressants and/or antibiotics if needed, other dogs develop hemorrhagic pneumonia and require intensive hospitalization for days, oxygen therapy, intravenous fluids and other aggressive support. These costs also vary by region, but can range between $100 to $2500.
Dr. Natalie Marks has been a veterinarian at Blum Animal Hospital since 2006 and a co-owner since 2012. Prior to 2006, Dr. Marks worked at a small animal practice just north of Atlanta, GA. Her media experience began in print when she created several monthly veterinary columns in multiple community magazines and was a frequent guest speaker for the German Shepherd and Bernese Mountain Dog clubs of Atlanta. Dr. Marks is very active in all aspects of media, both locally and nationally. She is a frequent contributor to Fox News and has appeared on Good Day Chicago, WGN-Pet Central, NBC Morning News, ABC, CBS, NPR, WBBM, Northwestern University media channel and many local websites. Dr. Marks was featured nationally on the Today Show and CBS Nightly News during the canine influenza epidemic of 2015 and in multiple issues of JAVMA. She is a guest contributor in multiple media campaigns for Merck, Zoetis (formerly Pfizer), Boerhinger-Ingelheim and Royal Canin. Additionally, Dr. Marks has been published in Veterinary Medicine magazine, DVM magazine, and was a reporter for Veterinary News Network where she completed intensive media training.