Swine Flu Doggie Style - NBC Bay Area

Swine Flu Doggie Style



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    Could a cough or sniffle from a four-legged family member mean the flu?

    We love our pets here in the Bay Area, that's for sure. After all, the Bay Area is the birthplace of the Wag Hotels and Dogster, the pet-lovers' social network. Dogs are welcomed at stores in Stanford and in Carmel, dog-friendliness at inns shops and restaurants is the norm.

    So it's no surprise that as the swine flu virus reaches pandemic levels and sweeps through the nation, people are wondering how it can affect them, their families and, of course, their beloved four-legged family member.

    The emergence of the canine flu also has dog owners wondering if they should get their dogs vaccinated.

    The canine or H3N8 flu virus is already hitting hard in Florida, New York and Colorado. But Dr. Kent Littlehale, a veterinarian in Santa Clara, says the Bay Area has not yet been hit by the bug.

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    But if it spreads as fast and furiously as the human illness, it's only a matter of time before it hits here in Northern California.

    Veterinarians say there's no evidence of canine flu spreading to humans but they don't rule it out. Meanwhile, humans have infected animals. Several cases of swine flu have been confirmed in pet ferrets, and at least one cat.

    Some dogs are at much higher risk of getting the canine flu and there's a new vaccine on the market. But whether you should get it for your dog depends on his health and where he goes.

    Dogs with the flu bug would have nasal discharge, redness and discharge in the eyes and dogs most at risk for infection include elderly animals or those with weak immune systems.

    "If you see poor appetite, weakness and persistent cough," Littlehale advises, "its time to see a vet."

    A canine flu vaccine was approved in May and costs about $30. Most dogs and cats don't need the shot and will survive if they do get the virus, Littlehale says.

    "The vast majority of dogs exposed to it are not going to get seriously ill," Littlehale says, "they will have mild case of flu." Most dogs with the canine flu will recover within three to five days, Littlehale said.

    Dogs in kennels, shelters, grooming parlors and pet stores are most at risk for the canine flu virus and the best candidates for the vaccine.

    The same hygiene rules apply to keep yourself and your family from possibly getting the canine flu as any other virus: wash your hands often and avoid close contact if you suspect the dog is sick.

    That means avoid those wet kisses from Fido --no matter how happy you are to see each other after a long day apart.