By Mary Kuhlman
Fears of the flu for Fido are running high among many Indiana dog owners, thanks to a rare strain of canine influenza that has sickened over 1,100 dogs in the Midwest. The Indiana State Board of Animal Health reports there have been at least a dozen cases reported in the northwest part of the state in the last week.
Dr. Thomas Mullaney, acting director of the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health at Michigan State University, says most dogs who catch this strain of flu will have mild symptoms like a cough, loss of appetite, sneezing, or a runny nose that only require supportive care. But he warns it can take a more serious turn.
"The dogs tend to typically get higher fevers, tend to eventually develop difficulty breathing because they have signs of pneumonia," he says. "In those situations the possibility of secondary bacterial infections occurs."
According to Mullaney, canine flu is not a threat to humans, but it is highly contagious and can quickly pass from dog to dog - or even dog to cat. During an outbreak, he says it's best to reduce the amount of contact animals have with each other in places where dogs typically gather.
"Doggie daycares, and where you have kennel situations," he says. "Even where you have dogs congregating together where people walk their dogs."
As with the flu in humans, Mullaney says common sense prevention measures will go a long way with canine influenza.
"When you've handled dogs and worked with dogs, washing hands with soap and water and limiting contact between dogs will probably reduce incidence and likelihood of occurrence," he says.
Mullaney says a veterinarian should examine any dog that develops a cough or other respiratory symptom. He stresses that while many dogs have fallen ill, the fatality rate for this strain of canine flu is low.