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      When the Canine Flu hits home

      When the Canine Flu hits home

      The unthinkable happened to me this spring...a severe outbreak of the canine flu virus (H3N2) and my dogs were right in the cross hairs.  I've written on the canine flu in the past, never thinking it would actually happen to me, but it did.

      Tristan with the canine flu

      Tristan not feeling so good with the canine flu :(

       

      All three of my dogs participate in canine sports, so they all regularly attend class, competition and travel events.  Nate, our youngest, is working on his show championship and we set out for the weekend for our first show in a while.  Since we live in Florida, all the shows this time of year are indoors and all the dogs crate up in a central grooming area.  I was staying in a hotel rather than the RV, so for the majority of each day Nate and I were at the show grounds either in the ring, walking around the grounds (when we could stand the heat)! or in the grooming area - which was very close quarters.

      We returned from the weekend on Sunday night and by Monday morning reports were surfacing on social media about dogs who had been at the shows in Perry, GA the weekend before were now starting to get sick...some extremely sick and that it was an outbreak of the canine flu.  I am an active member of my breed club and we all began nervously watching our dogs hoping that none of them would become ill over the next few days.  It was first thought that the incubation period was about 3 - 4 days from exposure.  As the week went on...everyone in my house was fine as were my friends' dogs who were at the competition with me. Although more and more dogs were reporting sick from the shows the Perry shows that were the week before.

      It was the Memorial Day weekend and we were traveling without the dogs, so when we left on Friday afternoon and everyone was good - I figured we were safe.  We came home just after dinner on Sunday and our pet sitter reported that Nate was slow to eat his dinner - which is very unusual for him.  She said he was great a lunch time, and that he ultimately ate his dinner, but just slowly. 

      We got home around 7 and he appeared fine, maybe just a little not feeling good, but otherwise fine.  We settled in for our evening routine and he was okay, just a little sluggish, but I thought he might just have an upset stomach and nothing to worry about.  At around 8:30 I sat down in the chair and he came up to be petted and I could tell he really didn't feel good at all.  His little eyes were closed and he made a little noise that let me know he was not feeling good at all.  I called the sitter again to see if she noticed anything he got into, anything he ate in the yard etc... and while I was talking to her on the phone he all of a sudden gave a deep cough and had yellow mucous coming out of his nose!

      I knew immediately what it was...and off to the Emergency Vet we went.  We had to wait in the parking lot and they sent a vet tech out to pick him up and carry him in.  It is so so contagious that they did not want him infecting other patients or the office.  It came up on him very quickly and quite severely.  He is a young and healthy boy, and after antibiotics, fluids, cough medicine and a very rough first night, he turned around and was just sick but not in critical condition for the next 10 days.  And then began the wait for Biddy and Tristan to get sick....and sure enough by Friday they were both coughing and both sick.

      Everyone is healthy now but it was a long couple of weeks with three sick dogs in the house.  I felt very fortunate that none of my dogs were critically ill as so many others were. 

       

      So it begs the question...do you vaccinate for the canine flu?  My thoughts?  It depends and talk to your vet.  I learned a lot, a lot, a lot about this virus over my extended time up close and personal with it. 

      I found the best resource to be the University of Florida Small Animal Hospital site on canine influenza.  They are at the forefront of the outbreak in both treatment and research.  They are also providing guidance to veterinarians on how to treat and handle the outbreak - so a trusted site. 

      To Vaccinate or not to vaccinate?

      The vaccine is probably not for everyone, but if your one of those people like I am that participates in canine sports - you should probably have that discussion with your vet.  If you board your dog a lot or he goes regularly to a doggie day care...you should also have that discussion with your vet to see if it is appropriate.  Typically, a healthy dog will become sick but just like a human, get better from a bout with the canine flu.  It is the very old, compromised, and very young that are at the greatest risk.  So your risk is not so much how will your young dog fair, but how will your senior dog that you brought it home to fair? 

      So...if you and your dog participate is some of these lifestyle activities:

      •  Dog Shows
      • Agility Events
      • Obedience/Rally events
      • Regular Boarding/day care

      It might be worth  your time to educate yourself on the virus, the transmission periods, how to prevent it through vaccination and how to prevent it through behaviors.  Happy Reading and stay healthy!!!

      (And yes..after we all recovered fully we got the first dose of the vaccine.  Next week we will get our booster and we will not be returning to competition until September!) 

      We are taking the summer off and training at home.  I have set some pretty specific goals for Biddy, Tristan and Nate...stay tuned for how we do at the end of the summer!

      How to Keep Your Dog Safe This Summer

      Previously published on 4knines

      By Kathryn Durno |

      Spring has sprung, the weather is beautiful and everyone is ready to get out there for some fun in the sun! Your best friend is eager to come out with you and enjoy the beautiful weather.

      How to Keep Your Dog Safe This Summer

      Some of the most common dangers that our dogs face during the warm summer months can be avoided if we plan ahead.

      It is a season of trips to the park, festivals, farmer’s markets, family bbq’s and plenty of fun in the sun and water. These tips will help you and your dog safely enjoy the summer months:

      Avoiding Heat Stroke

      Heat stroke is the most common and deadly disease, but it is entirely preventable! We always associate it with leaving your dog in a hot car, but more often than not it can be common activities that we do with our dogs that brings on this deadly condition.

      • Weekend warrior strenuous exercise. Do you like to take your dog for a run on the weekend? An extra long game a fetch with the chuck-it at the park? A wild romp with his dog buddies?
      • Extended time outside. A long afternoon at the Farmer’s Market, the outdoor concert or even a day of family fun outside. If your dog doesn’t have access to shade to cool him off, heat stroke can begin to set in.

      Know what to look for and what to do in case your dog begins to overheat.

      Did you know that dogs can’t sweat like humans to cool off? Their method of releasing heat and cooling off is panting. While this works most of the time, when it doesn’t your dog’s internal temperature can skyrocket and the symptoms of a dangerous heat stroke can set in.

      According to Stefanie Wong, DVM a normal body temperature for your dog is between 99.5F and 102.5F. With heat stroke, temperatures can rise to 104 and higher. Once they reach 106 or higher organ damage can result and aggressive treatment and hospitalization are required.


      What to look for:

      • Excessive panting and restlessness
      • Excessive salivating
      • Shock, vomiting, diarrhea and weak or unsteady on their feet
      • Brick red gum color

      At the first signs of heat stroke you should take these initial steps and get your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

      What to do:

      • Move your pet to a cool/shaded spot
      • Wet them down using a hose, buckets of water or in the tub
      • DO NOT USE ICE OR COLD WATER as this can actually make heat stroke worse
      • Offer water but do not force them to drink
      • Keep air vents and fans on them on the way to the vet

      How to Prevent it:

      • Don’t over do it with your dog. Save intense activities for early in the morning or evening once the weather has cooled.
      • Know your dog’s physical limits. If they are a little out of shape, ease them into more strenuous exercises, especially if they only get out on the weekends.
      • If you will be outside of an extended period of time bring some shade for your dog. A small pop up canopy, a battery powered fan and plenty of water.

      Warmer temperatures also mean pavement and sidewalks that are hot, hot, hot!!! The common rule of thumb should be if the pavement is too hot for you to walk on with your bare feet, it’s too hot for your dog.

      Plan ahead with your dog’s safety in mind!

      • Bring the right equipment. Plenty of water, shade, and a fan.
      • Don’t over do it
      • Once your arrive at your destination, check out the conditions from your dog’s point of view before your set out. If it will be too hot, change your plans.
      • Always monitor your dog for the first signs of heat stroke.
      • Know what is normal panting and gum color for your dog and take action if it isn’t right.

      Can your dog get the flu?

      Dog rests in bed

       

      Spring is almost here and you've made it through flu season, but can your dog get the flu?

      Well, it turns out that dogs CAN get the flu. There really isn't any evidence to suggest that we can get the canine influenza virus from our dogs, but there is some evidence to suggest that our dogs can get the flu from us. I did not know that!

      The typical symptoms of canine influenza (H3N8) - a low fever, persistent cough, runny nose and just not feeling good are common symptoms, so you would need to take your dog to the vet to determine if indeed they did have the flu. While the canine flu isn't highly dangerous to your dog, it should be treated immediately by your vet so that it doesn't further develop into pneumonia or other serious infection. Once diagnosed, treatment is pretty much the same as it is for human flu - rest and fluids unless a bacterial infection develops, then antibiotics would be prescribed.

      There is a canine flu vaccine available - however, you should discuss this with your vet as to whether or not it is appropriate for your dog. Certain areas of the country have a higher incidence of the flu virus, as well as dogs that are exposed to certain conditions. So check with your vet to see if it is right for your dog. I

      n the meantime....Biddy and Tristan will be getting fewer kisses over the next few days until we are 100% and I will be watching them both to make sure they aren't showing any symptoms. Good to know...watch where you are taking your dog during flu season and who they come in contact with.

      In Pet Therapy we always gave the dogs a quick wipe down with a sani-wipe after leaving nursing homes etc...might not be a bad idea to practice after all of our outings. I'm going to miss nuzzling with my two favorite pink noses for a few days...

      Tips for staying Flu-free

      1. Limit your dog's exposure to other dogs during flu season - a few less times at the dog park, dog show or class

      2. Practice good hygiene - use sanitizing wipes on your dogs paws and coat after potentially being exposed

      3. If you are sick...follow the same guidelines, good hygiene and limit your "nose-to-nose" contact with your dog.

      4. If you suspect the flu - take your dog in to see the vet right away so that it doesn't develop into anything more serious.

      5. Consider the vaccine if your think your dog is in a high risk situation

      3 Tips for keeping your senior dog young at heart

      This article was previously published by Kathryn Durno on 4Knines Blog

      Can sports and games help your senior dog stay young at heart? Just like us, our senior pets need regular exercise, mental stimulation and regular social interaction with other pets and/or people. While they might not be up for the endless games of fetch, they still need the right level of exercise and mental stimulation to keep them young at heart.

      Biddy Senior dog

      Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is a common issue for senior dogs that is very similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. Symptoms can range from forgetfulness of familiar trained tasks, to disorientation, restlessness or barking for no reason. While we can’t turn back the hands of time, just like with humans, we can help our senior pets by keeping their brains sharp and active, with easy, fun training games. Mental stimulation, proper and appropriate exercise, and regular social interaction with other pets and/or people can help your senior pet stay young at heart.

      If you don’t use it, you lose it!

      While their trail running days may be over, don’t let your dog just sit on the couch day and night. Provide your best friend with plenty of mental stimulation. This can be just easy things such as changing up your regular walk route (or going on a short one if you haven’t been out in a while), to trying any number of fun puzzles. Easy dog puzzles that can be used all the time are Kongs, or kibble dispensing balls and cubes. These are quick, fun and a great way to make your dog exercise their brain just a little for their meals. These are inexpensive and you can find one at your local pet store today.

      Then there are the more challenging puzzles – moving levers, sliding cylinders and wheels, and pushing buttons to retrieve their food. A quick search on the internet for dog puzzles and you will see there are many, many choices out there! While they can be a little pricey, they typically last for a long time and are tremendous brain teasers for your dog (and sometimes even for you to get the treats loaded in!). It is awesome to watch your dog progress to the most difficult level of a puzzle over time.

      We often think of obedience and training classes as something for just young dogs and puppies – but adult dog classes can go a long way. Research has found that dogs that participated in adult training classes were less likely to develop CDS.

      So while your senior dog may not be up for agility, here are a few very fun and popular classes that you and your senior pup might enjoy:

      Rally

      Rally is fun, fun, fun, and both you and your dog really need to think! It is perfect for senior dogs (and handlers too!) since there isn’t any running or jumping involved. In a nutshell, you and your dog navigate a series of rally signs on a course. The signs direct you to do a variety of activities such as turns, heeling patterns, changes of speed, spiral turns, halt and other basic obedience moves. Some of the signs are quite complex, but the focus is on team work, communication and interacting with your dog. It is typically done indoors with your dog on a leash to start.

      Once you become more advanced, a lot of the work is off leash. Rally keeps both you and your dog engaged and challenged in a fun, social environment without being physically taxing on either one of you. You can compete for titles in Rally or just do it for fun. It is a great way to get your dog out of the house and into a different environment, give him a mental workout and spend some great time bonding.

      Noseworks

      Over the last several years Noseworks has evolved from just a fun game, to an actual sport with titles for your dog. This is a great brain game for your dog and is often used as an enrichment activity for shelter dogs who need a change of pace. K9 Noseworks harnesses the power of your dog’s nose and their ability to find a scent – it is perfect for dogs of all ages and sizes.

      Did you know that dogs have four times the brain power devoted to processing scents?

      Practicing Noseworks is a wonderful way to provide your dog with mental and social stimulation. In this fun game, specific scents or odors are hidden in a small box and your dog has to sniff until they find them. Typically your dog will start with something familiar like a yummy smelling treat that they know. It is placed in a small sturdy container with holes, and then hid. A first time hide is usually in a series of larger cardboard boxes. Your dog needs to search and sniff around until they find the box with the treats. As they progress, the hiding places become more complex as do the scents. They gradually will begin to train on scents such as birch, anise or cloves. While it sounds rather odd… again, this is fun, fun, fun for your dog and exciting for you to watch him try to find it. This class is usually done indoors, with a group, one dog at a time.

      Pet Therapy

      Dogs and their humans that do pet therapy are special pairs. It is a volunteer activity, where through a group you and your dog make scheduled visits to nursing homes, schools or hospitals. This is one of the most rewarding things you will do with your dog – and is perfect for senior dogs. Once you find a Therapy Dog group near you, you and your dog will need to become a registered team. This is typically an obedience test similar to the Canine Good Citizen test. There are several Therapy Dog registering organizations where you can have your dog evaluated. These volunteer hours that you and your best friend spend together will be cherished time – and you will be amazed at how intuitive your dog is to those that are in need. It fits the bill in more ways than one for social interactions for your dog.

      Other Tips of Maintaining Your Senior Dog’s Health:

      • Maintain a regular schedule with your vet
      • Practice good dental hygiene and keep their teeth clean
      • Is your pet a little pudgy? Try to help them lose just a little weight… remember YOU control the food and treats, just a little less each day and they will drop the excess weight.
      • A regular, easy exercise schedule
      • Keep their nails short – long nails put stress on your dogs feet, alter their gait and can cause balance and movement issues as they age.

       

       

      Keep your dog and yourself in shape this winter with these easy exercises

      Previously posted by Kathryn Durno on 4knines blog

       

      How to stay fit in the winter time… a few easy exercises for you and your dog!

      Keeping your dog fit this winter

       

      Let’s face it, when it is dark, cold and wet outside you don’t want to go out and play. But your dog? He’s ready for adventure and has energy to burn, so there has to be a happy medium, right?

      During the winter months it is hard to get in the same level of physical activity for your dog, which can lead to weight gain or worse yet destructive behavior. Here are a few fast and easy games to play with your dog to burn off some mental and physical energy when it is too cold to play outside.

      I use my dog’s regular morning and evening kibble to do their training exercises. We follow that principal that they have to “work for their food” at both meals. This takes a little more time and effort on your part beyond just setting the food bowl down in front of your dog. Once you both get used to this routine (it takes a few days!) you will both enjoy this time together and you will be amazed how quickly your dog will learn some new behaviors.

      You will need to find something to serve as a platform for your dog to step up on. If you want to go out and buy something there are several brands of canine fitness equipment out there. Or you could just go to the yoga section of your local sporting goods store and get a small inflatable balance disc. They are about 12 – 15 inches in diameter and you can use it too! You can also just use something around the house that is an easy step up for your dog. For a small dog just 1-2 inches, medium size dogs about 4-5 inches and a large dog about 6-8 inches. This could be a large book, a wood block, a box etc.

      Clicker: I am also a clicker trainer and find this is the easiest way to teach a new behavior. Once your dog understands that the Clicker means Yes! You did it! You will be able to quickly train them new behaviors with your clicker.

      Exercises:

       

      Step Up

      You want to teach your dog to step up onto a platform with both front paws. You are teaching front end awareness and working on their core – especially if you are using a balance disc. Just a few reps of step up onto their platform. Mix it up with asking for alternating paws once they get up there or a high 5. Remember to reward at every step up and paw touch.

      Put Your Rear On

      This is just like Step Up, but instead of putting their two front paws on, you are asking for their two rear paws, front feet on the floor. This one is a real challenge for some dogs. This teaches rear end awareness and rear strength. Often as our dogs get older, they lose their hind end strength. Start now and work on this rear end awareness and strength! You may need to help your dog by placing their rear paws on your platform item, then clicking and treating until they understand. This is a hard one but so worth it in the long run if you can teach this. You can also mix this up with asking for a front paw or high 5 once they master it.

      Pivot

      This really two exercises. Try it first with both front paws on the platform, then once your dog gets really good, rear paws on the platform.

      Front paws on, ask your dog to pivot, by moving around the clock. You will need to start with one step at a time. Keeping their front paws in place, moving both back legs around. Lots of rewards, and move around with your dog, and they will “get it” so that they can eventually end up making a full 360 degree pivot around their platform with their rear legs. Make sure they don’t step off the platform with their front paws.

      Once your dog masters this… it is time to try it with their rear on, moving their front legs around “the clock”. This one is really tough and a big challenge for your dog. Keep those rewards coming for even the first step!

      We always use this time to practice our “Push-Ups” (Sit, Down, Stand) and Sit Pretty (Up on haunches in the “Beg” position) repetitions to build out rear and core strength.

      Dogs love to work – especially for food. So take advantage of it and take the time to give them a mental and physical workout twice day… your dog thanks you!