The Dog Flu in Decatur and Atlanta: What You Need to Know about Canine Influenza

Well, it's happening. The "Dog Flu" has hit Atlanta and Decatur. 

You may recall that the dog flu has been big news in the last month, with the virus spreading quickly in the midwest, around Chicago.

Why has this dog flu become an epidemic? 
Your dog probably never contracted Canine Influenza before because he received a vaccine for it at his regular vet checkup. The thing about this particular strain of the dog flu, the H3N2 strain, is that it is immune to the common influenza vaccine. There is a vaccine available, but it is in very limited supply.

Even if your dog is vaccinated, he is still not protected from this strain of Canine Influenza

Since we are a dog walking and pet sitting service, this affects us and our clients directly. So after reading and hearing several reports from neighbors, I decided to call my personal vet, The Village Vets of Decatur, and ask some questions.

The following is some basic information you need to know about the dog flu, and how it pertains to your pet's daily routine, whether it's with your dog walker, your pet sitter, or your doggy daycare. You should consult your veterinarian if you have questions or concerns about your pet.

It is extremely contagious

Libby is wondering if she should worry about the dog flu.

Libby is wondering if she should worry about the dog flu.

Canine Influenza is airborne, which means it can travel long distances through the air. According to my vet, it can even travel through the ventilation system. 

So what does that mean?
It means that if your dog just breathes the same air as another dog who is infected with the virus, your dog can, and most likely will, get infected (more on that "most likely" part below). And that's true even if the two dogs are not in the same room, because it's traveling through the air conditioning vents, too. 

How likely is it that your dog will be infected?
Extremely likely. Actually, it's a small miracle if he doesn't get infected. 

I learned from my vet that the dog flu has a rate of incidence of 95%. That means that 95% of dogs that come in contact with the virus, actually get infected. So when they say, "highly contagious", they're not kidding. And you should heed that warning.

If you're thinking Canine Influenza can probably also be contracted through direct physical contact, or sharing food and water bowls, you'd be right. Canine Influenza can survive on surfaces for up to 48 hours.

HOW TO AVOID THE DOG FLU

My vet highly discourages contact with other dogs for the next couple of weeks. Makes sense, right?

You should avoid:

  • Dog parks
  • Doggy daycare
  • Groomers
  • Boarding or kenneling
  • Avoid saying hello to other dogs on your walks

What you should look out for

Dogs who contract Canine Influenza often don't show symptoms for 2-4 days, and those first few days are when your dog is most contagious, and will infect almost every single dog he meets (remember, 95%!!!).

The most common symptoms are:

  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Lethargy, ranging from mild to severe
  • Loss of appetite
  • Discharge (mucous, runny nose, runny eyes)
  • Fever

If your dog shows any of these symptoms, especially if he has been in contact with other dogs recently, you should contact your vet right away. Canine Influenza is not known to infect humans.

What is Whoa Doggy! doing about it?

We are taking precautions to prevent transmitting the virus. On the recommendation of my vet, we are keeping safe distance with all pets. Sure, this temporarily limits cuddling, but it's an important measure we have to take. We are thoroughly washing our hands and disinfecting after each visit, too. And we are encouraging our clients to temporarily stop using daycare or boarding options for their pets until the outbreak subsides. We are also paying extra close attention to each dog we walk or pet sit to look for symptoms, and as always, we are communicating anything we notice to our clients right away.

For more information on Canine Influenza, visit this page on the Georgia Veterinary Medical Association website.

Edit 6/22/15: Here is an updated article on some local news regarding the subject on Decaturish.com, with Whoa Doggy! being mentioned.