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How Dangerous is the Dog Flu Virus?

Not long ago, avian flu made international headlines. More recently, swine flu became a major concern. But have you heard of the dog flu? Unlike the avian or swine viruses, this dog virus does not attack people—it’s out to get man’s best friend.

How serious is the Dog flu virus? Could it kill your pet? Yes, there have been some fatalities associated with the dog virus (technically called the H3N8 Canine flu) but they are relatively few.

Should you be concerned about it? Maybe not. It is a particular threat to certain dogs—those with pug-like snouts, including Bulldog, Pekingese, and Shi-Tzu—because it makes it hard for the dogs to breathe.

And although it is described as “highly contagious,” mostly spreading through dog-to-dog contact in kennels and animal shelters, it’s become a serious issue in just a few areas of the country, including Florida, Philadelphia, Denver, and the Northern suburbs of New York City.

But a new vaccine could offer hope to pets at risk from the dog flu virus. According to Veterinary Practice News, just this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has granted a conditional license to Intervet/Schering-Plough for the first Canine Influenza Vaccine.

VPN says the vaccine, which must be administered by your veterinarian, has been “demonstrated to reduce the incidence and severity of lung lesions, as well as the duration of coughing…” If your dog is infected, the vaccine could also make them less contagious.

In a New York Times article, Dr. Cynda Crawford, credited with discovering the virus, explained that the dog flu virus is often mistaken for kennel cough. Both can cause coughing and gagging, but dogs with canine flu may also have high fevers and runny noses. “A few will develop pneumonia, and some of those cases will be fatal,” said Crawford, adding that antibiotics and fluids reduce the rate of fatality.

While Pets Best Insurance does not cover the Dog Flu Virus vaccine, if your veterinarian recommends it, we strongly urge you to follow the recommendation.

Animal shelters? No-kill shelters? Rescues?

So you’ve decided to adopt a dog or cat? Good for you! Each new adoption helps to curb the crisis of animal overpopulation in America.

But when it comes to pet adoption, where do you start? An animal shelter or no-kill shelter? A rescue organization? What’s the difference, anyway?

Let’s start with traditional animal shelters. Most communities have one, working on the front lines to fight the problem of animal overpopulation. Faced with an overwhelming number of homeless pets and a limited amount of space and resources, these shelters keep dogs and cats for a certain amount of time. Those that are not adopted are humanely euthanized, or “put to sleep.” Animals that are very old, seriously ill, or have behavior problems may be euthanized sooner than the healthy ones that have a better chance of being adopted.

As an alternative, no-kill rescue shelters do not euthanize. They may send dogs to foster homes to be raised and looked after until a permanent living situation can be found.

Both local animal shelters and no-kill rescue shelters take good care of the pets that end up there. They bathe, feed, and administer any medications the animals need until adoption. However, no-kill shelters often make sure that animals get love and human interaction, keeping them well socialized, while traditional shelters might not.

Animal rescue groups, also known as animal rescue organizations, usually specialize in a specific breed (such as Siamese cats or Greyhound dogs) or type of pet (such as toy dogs or hunting dogs). While these may be a great option for people who are set on a specific type of animal, don’t forget that you can find plenty of purebred animals in any shelter.

No matter what kind of shelter you choose, don’t assume that the animals are there because they are “bad.” The majority of shelter cats and dogs are there because of bad circumstances, whether their owners died, or had to move, or could not care for their pet anymore. But one thing is certain—with so many animals to choose from, you’ll be able to find a loving pet that will be perfect for you and your family.

Will an adopted pet bond with my family?

“You have to raise them from a puppy if you want a loyal dog.” My cousin was stubbornly explaining to me why he would never adopt a pet, especially a grown one.

He and his wife have two young kids and wanted a dog that would be loving and gentle toward the children and help protect their home, too.

But he was totally wrong in thinking you have to raise a loyal dog from a pup, or a cat from a kitten. The fact is, if you want an animal with a strong family bond, your local animal shelter or rescue shelter might be the best place to start looking.

Don’t assume that animal shelters and pet rescue shelters are full of dogs and cats abandoned because of bad behavior. Shelter pets for adoption are often the victims of tragic situations or irresponsible owners.

When my wife and I were newlyweds, we adopted an Australian Shepard mix who had been rescued while running in rush-hour traffic on the freeway. I can honestly say I’ve never had a more dedicated friend and protector.

We were pretty poor then and lived in a rough neighborhood, but our dog, Mickey, made us feel a lot safer. We joked that he was our household Head of Security, and he took his job seriously. He performed a patrol of the property every night before bed and was always alert for signs of danger.

I have no doubt that he would have defended us with his life.

Most folks who have adopted a pet will tell a similar story. Dogs or cats who have been uprooted from their homes, or have had difficult beginnings are likely to bond completely and deeply with their new human caretakers.

They’ll consider you a hero, and will probably show their appreciation as long as they live.

Why are spayed or neutered pets happier and healthier?

When adopting a cat or dog from an animal shelter, chances are you’ll take the animal home spayed or neutered; otherwise you won’t take it home at all.

One reason animal shelters and rescue shelters insist on spaying and neutering is because they are busy fighting a serious overpopulation problem. Every year, 10 million animals are euthanized at shelters simply because there aren’t enough homes.

For the health and happiness of your pet, there are dozens of other reasons to spay or neuter. Here are just a few:

  • When it comes to your pet’s personality, neutering will only change it for the better. They may become calmer. It may keep them from trying to escape to look for a mate. It won’t make them less protective.
  • An unsterilized cat or dog will tend to roam and is more likely to get in fights or accidents, or be exposed to poisons and illnesses.
  • According to the ASPCA, neutering a male cat or dog before they are six months old prevents testicular cancer and prostate disease, and spaying a female cat or dog helps prevent pyometra and breast cancer.
  • Statistics show that spayed or neutered animals may live up to two or three years longer than those that are not.
  • It is a myth that females should have a litter before being spayed. Your pet will actually be healthier if she never matures sexually. And though some pets become calmer after giving birth, many become more aggressive.
  • In cats, spaying prevents the crying and pacing they do when they are in heat.
  • Got several pets? They’ll get along better if spayed or neutered.
  • A sterilized pet will be more focused on, and devoted to, its human family, making this decision a win/win for the pet and its people too.

Spaying or neutering does not have to be an expensive procedure, and is certainly cheaper than raising a litter of pets. Your local animal shelters may offer these services at a discounted rate. Contact them to find out more.

Too Many Homeless Pets: What Can We Do?

I found another stray dog today. He was wandering my neighborhood with no collar and no identification. He’s the third one this year! I usually walk them around the neighborhood, ask the neighbors if they look familiar, then take them to the local animal shelter. I hang “found dog” signs if I have time.

I hope that their owners will find them or they’ll get adopted; I’d keep them all if I could.

It made me wonder how many dogs and cats end up in US animal shelters or rescue shelters. Estimates vary a lot—there could be anywhere from 6 to 12 million every year, according to my research.

Many of these are lost or homeless pets, but there are also plenty who are surrendered by their owners. Why? Good question. A government study I read gave some of the major reasons:

  • 11% of cat owners say “There are too many pets in our home.”
  • 7% of dog owners and 8% of cat owners give up pets because they are moving
  • 8% of cats are relinquished because of allergies
  • 6% of both dog and cat owners say that their landlord won’t allow the pet
  • For 5% of dogs and 6% of cats, owners say it costs too much to care for them

The study went on to say that 25% of the dogs are eventually adopted and 16% are reunited with their families. Almost all of the rest are killed. Adoption statistics are almost the same for cats, but nearly 71% end up getting euthanized.

Want to help this sad situation? Here are a few things to think about:

  • If your pet is lost, check your local shelters right away.
  • Make sure your pet always wears a collar with current identification.
  • Thinking of getting a new dog or cat? Save a life–consider pet adoption first!
  • No room for a new pet? You can help by donating your money or time to a local shelter. They might also appreciate old towels, blankets, pet food, cat litter, etc. Call them and ask what they need.
  • Make sure all your pets are spayed or neutered. There are too many cats and dogs as it is, and too many wasted lives.
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