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.

Adopted Pets Replacing Children

More and more people are replacing having children with pets. According to recent survey, more people are choosing not to have children. Many seniors who have raised families are finding that pets can replace that void that hits them after children leave the family. Studies have shown that pets decrease feelings of loneliness, help fight depression and keep seniors more active.

Who needs children when research has shown that certain hormones that increase when we cuddle children also increase when we cuddle our pets. The hormones Oxytocin and Prolactin increase when we play with or pet dogs, as shown from studies where blood samples were drawn prior to playing with a dog and afterwards. The hormones, which are high in pregnant and post birthing women, increased in the blood stream of men and women after petting a dog in one study and playing with a dog in another study. Both Oxytocin and Prolactin play a critical role in the birthing and bonding process of humans and all mammals.

These hormones are found to dampen stress, combat depression and reduce feelings of anxiety. So save a pet by adopting, and feel better in the process!

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.

Gentling Exercises for Your New Puppy

Suspend your puppy holding under the front legs below eye level for about six seconds.

Hug the puppy; gently squeeze tighter during any wiggling, then release when the puppy becomes fully relaxed.
Cradle your puppy upside-down in the crook of your arm and talk baby-talk while smiling and praising.

Massage every square inch of the puppy moving in a circular motion. Focus on his mouth, ears, eyes, scruff and feet. This exercise builds tolerance and trust for later in life when needed to treat these areas or examined by your vet.

Manipulate the head, ears, legs and tail through the normal range of motion. Make sure there is no pain involved. If they resist, use a treat as a distraction.

Pull up gums and rub teeth, to desensitize for later brushing.
Restrain your puppy on his side after gaining calm compliance of all previous steps.

Offer a small treat after each step. Acceptance of the food is an indication of minimal to no stress from the exercises.

Dr. Rolan Tripp of the Animal Behavior Network. Visit for more information.

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