Reference Articles

Canine Influenza On the Rise!

Canine influenza, more commonly known as the “Dog Flu”, is an infectious respiratory tract disease that was first discovered at a Greyhound racing track in Florida in 2004. Since that time, the virus has spread across the United States and several states are considered endemic for the disease, including New Jersey and New York. The following are FAQ’s on the disease.

The "Dog Flu" is a slang term to describe Canine Influenza which is the H3 N8 virus. It is a very contagious respiratory infection that is suspected to have jumped from a horse virus and now can infect dogs. It was first discovered in 2004 at a Greyhound racetrack in Florida. Since then, it has been isolated in over 30 states. At this time, it has not been shown to affect other mammals, including humans.

Dogs that are infected with Canine Influenza have signs of coughing, sneezing, eye and nose discharge. In most cases, the signs are mild, but may last for over a month. In some dogs, the signs are severe and can develop into pneumonia.

Like most other respiratory diseases, Canine Influenza passes from dog to dog through direct contact with respiratory secretions. There is also a possibility that the virus can be transferred from inanimate objects, like food and water bowls or toys that have infected secretions on them. Since its a new virus, dogs will not have natural immunity and so it is highly contagious.

Most cases of canine influenza will respond to supportive care. Animals that have moderate to severe effects should be monitored and treated by a veterinarian as soon as possible, especially those at risk for pneumonia. A vaccine for Canine Influenza is now available and would be recommended for dogs at risk of infections.

According to Dr. Nurhan Ezik of the Englewood Veterinary Center, “A dog that is frequently exposed to other dogs in a social setting would be at most risk for becoming exposed to Canine Flu or any other infectious disease. “

By Dr. Jill Richardson

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Sunscreen for Pets

Sunscreen can and should be used on cats and dogs. Animals that have light-colored noses and thin, very short, or missing fur are most in need of protective sunscreen, or sunblock. The groin, inside legs, and abdomen can also need sunscreen because hair is very thin there and UV light can reflect off of concrete surfaces to affect that skin. Also, dogs who like to expose their belly to the sun may need sunscreen. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends use of sunscreen in appropriate animals. Pets with light skin and short or thin hair coat are particularly prone to sunburn or skin cancer. Pets who have suffered hair loss from allergies, hot spots, disease, surgical preparation, or radiation can benefit from sunscreen. If your dog’s coat is shaved so the dog is cooler during the summer, sunscreen may be helpful.

In pets, sunburn can appear as red skin or hair loss. Sunburn can irritate or exacerbate existing conditions, such as allergies or hot spots.

Sunscreen can be applied to the bridge of the nose, ear tips, skin surrounding the lips, and any area where pigmentation is low. The sunscreen should be fragrance free, non-staining, and contain UVA and UVB barriers similar to SPF 15 or SPF 30 for humans. (SPF labeling and claims are not permitted in products marketed for use on pets, however, because the FDA has not established a test to determine SPF values in pets.) Some protective ingredients include Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Octyl Salicylate, Homosalate and Benzophenone-3. Octyl Salicylate products should not be used on cats.

There are some sunscreens created specifically for pets, but using baby sunscreen is also an option. Most human sunscreens have ingestion warnings because the ingredients can be toxic if a child or dog ingests them, so if your pet is likely to lick it, look for a pet-specific sunscreen. One thing to remember about sunscreen is that you need to use plenty of it, and you should re-apply regularly during sun exposure. It is recommended to use at least 1 tablespoon of lotion or cream for each body area treated! Sunscreen should be re-applied every 4 to 6 hours during the brightest time of the day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. While Veterinary Partner doesn’t normally mention specific pet products to avoid commercialism, there are so few pet sunscreens available that we will make an exception for pet sunscreens, which are much better for your dog and cat than human products.

By Carol S. Foil, DVM, MS, Diplomate A.C.V.D.

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