Animal Health & Welfare: Cathy Riehm talks about the flu

     The flu has recently caused many people to be sick, and even die. Animals can get the flu, too. There were several cases of dog flu reported in the Bay Area just in the last few months. We know that humans can get the flu from other humans and dogs can get the flu from other dogs. Viruses, as well as bacteria, fungi and parasites are all zoonotic. A zoonotic disease is one that can be transmitted from animals to humans- an example is the H1N1 swine flu influenza virus. Can we catch the flu from our pets and could we give our pets the flu? The general consensus is that while we can both catch a cold, the viruses that cause these colds are different.

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     Influenza A, a contagious viral disease, can affect our animals, too. Canine influenza (CIV H3N2 and H3N8), or dog flu, and equine influenza A (H3N8), or horse flu, are two viruses that affect the respiratory system. The symptoms include a persistent cough, sneezing, a runny nose, dehydration, fever, loss of appetite and loss of energy. The fatality rate is low in canine and equine influenza cases- typically only if the virus is allowed to develop into pneumonia is there a risk of death.

     And what about kitties? Cats can get the flu, too. The two cat flu viruses are Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR) and Feline Calicivirus (FCV). This is what the FVRCP vaccine prevents. Equine influenza vaccines have been available for some time, but it is only recently that a canine influenza vaccine has been developed.

     Influenza is spread by coming into contact with infected animals, like dogs sniffing noses. It is delivered by airborne mechanisms, like coughing and sneezing, and can also be transmitted by coming into contact with contaminated items, like food bowls or toys. Dr. Barbara Weiss, at Village Veterinary in Mendocino, says that "dogs who travel, go to dog parks and attend dog shows and competitions should be vaccinated".

     Could the canine flu travel up the coast to us? PetCare in Santa Rosa reports that they have not had any recent canine influenza cases. Keep things clean, especially when handling many different dogs, and be sure to provide the healthiest lifestyle possible for your pet to ensure a strong immune system that is able to fight off the flu.  

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