Canine Influenza – The Truth

To pay attention to any of the media coverage of Canine Flu coming from the midwest in the last couple of weeks, you would think that there was an epidemic parallel to the Black Death. Whenever there is an outbreak of a contagious illness, it’s good to pay attention, get educated and be cautious, but take a deep breath folks. The sky is not falling.

For those who’ve missed the story, here’s the gist.

In March, cases of Canine Influenza (flu) began to rise in the Chicago area. By early April, the numbers began to spike and it appeared that cases also were popping up in neighboring states. Now in mid-April the media is in full blown panic, publishing articles with headlines like: “Dangerous Canine Influenza Strain Plaguing Dogs in Midwest” … “Tips On (Dealing With) Deadly Canine Flu Sweeping Midwest” … “Thousands of Dogs in Midwest Stricken” …

Besides the point that factually many of the articles are just wrong, the hysteria they are fueling is patently unfair to pet owners and a hindrance to folks who make their living in the canine care arena. An array of responsible dog care facilities are taking serious precautions – deep cleanings and disinfecting, mandating vaccinations for dogs who come to their daycare/boarding, isolating and removing dogs showing any symptoms. Facilities in areas outside of the hot zone are taking precautions, not allowing any dogs to enter that are from affected areas – even if vaccinated.

For those whose dogs have taken ill or died, of course no statistics matter, but it is important to look at the reality of the figures before allowing yourself to panic. As of today, the number of dogs that have died from canine influenza in Chicago is 6. There have been over 1,300 reported cases. That makes the fatality rate from this outbreak lower than the chances of your dog dying when it goes in for spay/neuter surgery.

If you live in the midwest, by all means take the necessary precautions – avoid dog parks, perhaps avoid having your dog in daycare or boarding facilities until you’ve confirmed the actions those facilities have and are taking to insure no infection, if you are able to get your dog vaccinated, do. The vaccine currently on the market is said not to be effective with the current strain (or perhaps less effective) but it won’t do your dog any harm to get some level of protection on board.

If you have visited or been through the midwest (specifically Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin) in the last month or so, keep a close eye on your pup. If you see any signs of symptoms, take your pup to the vet right away.

Now if you don’t live in the midwest that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be mindful. Here is a great post by Las Vegas veterinarian, Dr. Debbie White, that sets a thoughtful and non-reactionary path that you can take to insure your pup is safe.