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Tips on the Deadly Canine Flu Sweeping the Midwest

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A handful of dogs have died and over 1,000 have been sickened with canine influenza across the Midwest.  Help prevent your favorite snuggle buddies from contracting the virus with this information.

Dog flu is nothing new, but scientists are saying this year’s strain is particularly malicious.  Symptoms include a fever, cough, runny nose, lethargy, and loss of appetite.  Some dogs can develop more serious symptoms and even succumb to the illness, but about 80 percent of dogs infected will only have a mild form.

“This is a disease that will be very manageable and very preventable,” said Paul Schifano, veterinarian and owner of Petropolis in Chesterfield, Missouri. “The whole approach is to avoid something that has happened in Chicago.”

The strain is highly contagious and can be spread by coming into direct contact with respiratory emissions.  People who have touched sick dogs can spread the virus to other dogs.  Healthy dogs may become infected by coming into contact with contaminated food/water dishes, toys, beds, etc.  All of these things should be thoroughly washed, and a person should make sure to wash hands and change clothes before touching a healthy dog or their things if they believe they have been in contact with a sick dog.

Veterinarians can test dogs for the flu and can administer a vaccine to help prevent them from catching it.  In severe cases, lack of treatment can lead to pneumonia and death.  However, vets aren’t positive that the vaccine, designed to fight the H3N2 strain, will work on the H3N8 strain.

“We don’t know if the vaccine we are using is going to be protective or if it’s not going to work at all,” said David Roberts, a veterinarian at Manchester West Veterinary Hospital.

If your dog shows symptoms of flu, contact your veterinarian and make sure your dog gets plenty of fluids and rest in a comfortable place.  Humans and cats are not known to contract the virus, but a sick dog must be kept away from other dogs to prevent transmission.

“It’s really no different if you’re talking about dogs or toddlers, if you think they’re sick, don’t bring them to daycare,” said Keith Poulsen of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

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