How Worried Should You Be About Your Pet’s Health?
As responsible pet owners, we all want what is best for our pets. At one end of the spectrum you have “WARNING! NEW PANDEMIC KILLING DOGS!” news articles every other week, and at the other end you have “What your vet doesn’t tell you about all the unnecessary things they recommend” pieces in your inbox on the alternate weeks. It seems like no matter what choices you make, someone is going to tell you that you’re doing it wrong. So what’s a thoughtful person to do?
I stand by the same assertions I always have: When you’re trying to wade through all the information out there, know who you can trust.
There’s nothing more important for your pet’s well-being than having the guidance of pet professionals who you know will give you good advice, and it’s my own roster of people like this that made me sit up and take attention of this week’s canine influenza outbreak in Chicago.
It’s my job to be as honest and thorough as I can when I give advice, and fortunately for me that means a lot of the time I am able to provide reassurance to people when they are worried about something very unlikely to affect them or their pets.
On the other hand, we also have a responsibility to pay attention to those cases where indications point to an actual problem, as we saw last week with Made in the USA jerky, and this week with the canine flu.
According to the Chicago Tribune, confirmed cases have gotten so bad that many boarding facilities and dog parks are closing their doors until the outbreak is under control. Although mortality is low (about 5%), it is highly contagious, and pets who are exposed do stand an 80% chance of showing signs of illness.
The local veterinary community has done a great job of staying on top of the most current data and giving people appropriate recommendations. Here in San Diego, I haven’t added the influenza vaccine to my list of “must haves” because so far the risk is very low and it seems many clients are electing to minimize the number of vaccines their pets receive.
On the other hand, today’s culture of highly traveled people and pets means canine influenza may very well be popping up soon here, or in Dallas, or where you live. This is why what is happening in Chicago matters, even if you are on the other side of the country.
There are no documented instances of canine influenza passing to humans, although canine influenza itself arose from a strain of equine influenza. The potential for a flu strain to pass back and forth from companion animals to people is one of the greatest concerns of the public health community, and another reason we are all watching this closely.
So what do you do now? We all owe it to our pets to change our recommendations based on the most current data available. For healthy dogs who frequently kennel or go to dog parks, I’m going to talk a lot more about the canine influenza vaccine with my clients — because I’d rather be in front of a trend than trying to catch up. If I were in Chicago or another area in the midst of an outbreak, I wouldn’t take my dog to boarding or day care at all until the cases died down.
Making good choices about health is about getting good information and being prepared. That way, we don’t need to panic, because we know we already have the tools we need to do what’s best for our pets.
If you have concerns about your dog and this outbreak, it’s never a bad idea to ask your vet what she thinks, as well.
Is your dog vaccinated? Are you considering it?
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang
Image: Chaoss / Shutterstock