The New Dog Flu — Coming to a Town Near You?

I don’t like to be a fear monger, but the new strain of dog flu that killed and sickened many dogs in Chicago, has now spread to 12 states beyond Illinois. A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about an episode of THE EXPERT VET radio show that my co-host Dr. Donna Spector and I did about the flu when it was confined to the Chicago area. If you missed it, here is that podcast again, because it’s important that everyone understand the facts about this scary illness and make good decisions for their dogs without panicking.

However, the new news is that the flu has been identified in an increasing number of states, cases which have been reliably diagnosed with the help of a rapidly created test from IDEXX laboratories, where most of the research on diagnostic testing is done in this country. This test allows veterinarians to know immediately if a dog has the H3N2 flu, which has serious consequences, or some less worrisome upper respiratory illness.

There is no point in ignoring this disease as it spreads, especially if you have a vulnerable dog, meaning one who is very young, very old, or immune compromised because of a disease, like cancer, and is undergoing chemotherapy. This disease can be deadly but if caught early can be managed with supportive care –– but more importantly, can be avoided by taking certain precautions.

Dr. Jose Arce from the American Veterinary Medical Association caught up with me last week on my radio show DOG TALK® and was very helpful in explaining how to recognize and steer clear of this fast-spreading illness.

Right now, your best bet is to avoid dog parks or anywhere large numbers of dogs congregate. I’d suggest that rather than trying to tire your dog out by letting them run wild with other dogs, instead you can use more of their energy and even burn more calories by doing ten minutes a day of trick or obedience practice. Make sure you have some really tasty treats on hand — in your goody bag mix up bits of real cheese and Halo Liv-a-Little protein treats and pieces of biscuits to reward them.  You’ll be amazed by how much calmer and better companions they are when you focus their mind on a task rather than simply allowing them to run and wrestle with other dogs. Think of it as a benefit of the spreading dog flu!

—Tracie Hotchner

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