2013 FLU OUTBREAK! PROTECT YOUR PETS!
Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston has officially declared the city in a state of public health emergency. The city of Boston has experienced an overwhelming 700 flu cases since October 1 related to the flu, four of which resulted in deaths. Currently at Massachusetts General Hospital, there is a 24 hour wait for residents to be treated and hospital staff are advised to wear masks at all times. The flu outbreak has taken a serious toll over the past few weeks in the city with a total of 18 people succumbing to the dangerous strain of virus called Influenza B. This year’s most updated flu vaccine does not protect the new strain but getting vaccinated is still highly encouraged.
Across the United States, 41 states are also facing similar outbreaks. People suffering from the virus encounter fevers that can rise to as high as 106 degrees followed by body chills, fatigue, coughing, and weakness that can last for weeks. Elderly, young, and pregnant individuals are highly susceptible towards contracting the virus where results can be fatal. Getting vaccinated is a significant safety measure to protect you and your loved ones during the current outbreak affecting the country.
Dogs are just as vulnerable as humans when it comes to diseases, infections, and viruses. Canine influenza affects a dog’s respiratory system and is highly contagious, spread by direct contact and contaminated air. Leading experts say with over sixty percent of U.S. households owning one or more pets, the recent reports regarding this year’s highly contagious and potentially deadly strain of canine influenza has dog owners worried.
This epidemic should serve as a reminder about just how serious pet owners must take canine influenza-related pet health advisories. Cases have also been documented in California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia. Paul Mann, Founder and President of the nationally franchised FETCH! Pet Care, notes, “Canine influenza often occurs in kennel boarding and daycare facilities as one dog ‘plants’ the disease in any given kennel and then multiple dogs – perhaps upwards of 150 or more – have a high chance of contracting and spreading the infectious disease during the time they are kenneled. While the disease can be spread by people moving back and forth between infected and uninfected dogs, there are certainly much safer, healthier alternatives to kenneling facilities that the public needs to be aware of.”
Just how serious is this? Consider these startling facts presented in an August 2005 Veterinary Advisory issued by the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. Because canine flu is a fairly new disease, all dogs, regardless of breed or age, are susceptible to infection and have no naturally-acquired or vaccine-induced immunity. Virtually 100 percent of exposed dogs become infected. The incubation period is two to five days after exposure before clinical signs appear. Infected dogs may shed the virus for seven to ten days from the initial day of clinical signs. Nearly 20 percent of infected dogs will not display clinical signs and become the silent spreaders of the infection. There is no rapid, real-time test for diagnosis of dogs with an acute influenza virus infection and no vaccine for canine influenza virus at this time. Because the virus is highly contagious and all dogs are susceptible to infection, veterinarians, boarding facilities, shelters and pet stores should use isolation protocols for dogs that have a “kennel cough”.
“Professional in-home pet sitting is a sound alternative to thwarting canine influenza since most reputable pet care services typically visit dogs in their home one at a time or walk, board or daycare them individually or in very small groups,” continued Mann. “The better pet care services will also employ a large number of pet sitters to assure each staff member interacts with no more than 5 to 10 dogs in a day’s time – even during the busy holidays. This exposure is far less than the 50 to 150 dogs that might typically board together in a kennel over a busy holiday season. Thus, the disease risk level for in-home pet sitting is considerably lower. To date no dogs have contracted canine influenza from a pet sitting service.”
Cynda Crawford, DVM, PHD, Assistant Scientist at the College of Vetinarian Medicine at the University of Florida, provided sound advice on the best way to prevent your dog from contracting canine influenza. “If you’re adopting a dog from a shelter, or other type of adoption or rescue facility, pet store, be sure and select a dog that is healthy, not one that is clinically displaying signs of a respitory infection. Ask the boarding facility staff if they have had outbreaks of kennel cough in their facility. If they have how long ago was it, how often do they have one, and what do they do about it? Do they isolate the first dog that coughs away from the other animals? Do they then contact a veternarian? Do they inform owners of the other dogs that it was exposed to a dog with kennel cough? On the flip side the boarding facility staff should ask some questions about the potential dog, such as has your dog been sick within the last two weeks? Has your dog been exposed to another sick dog, have you adopted your dog from a pet store and has your dog boarded elsewhere within the last two weeks?”
FETCH Pet Care Pet Sitting Guidelines
For the pet owners who do plan to use a pet sitter guidelines for this season so their animals can maintain normal activities and be nurtured in familiar surroundings, or with the hope of avoiding serious health concerns associated with kennel boarding even beyond canine influenza – including depression and kennel cough, FETCH! Pet Care offers these “Top 10 Tips Assuring Pet Sitting Satisfaction”:
1. Check all of the company’s references – at least three should be voluntarily provided.
2. Ensure the company is fully licensed, bonded and insured.
3. Verify that the sitter can accommodate both your pet’s daily feeding and walking schedule as well as your desired vacation schedule during busy holidays.
4. Ensure the company offers 7-day per week telephone and email availability.
5. Confirm that your sitter has undergone a criminal background check and has received proper training.
6. Pre-interview sitter with your pet(s) present to observe interactions and establish a “comfort level” for both you and the pet(s).
7. Clearly state how you would like the sitter to use his/her visit time in terms of walking, playing, feeding, cleaning, etc.
8. Provide medical and behavioral history about your pet(s) as well as veterinary and other emergency contact information, and gather all necessary supplies, including food, vitamins, and treats in one central location.
9. Ensure company has “backup” measures in place should your sitter have an emergency that prevents them from completing your assignment.
10. Confirm the service is a current member of Pet Sitters International, the world’s largest organization for professional pet sitters.
For more information visit: www.fetchpetcare.com
Animal Fair hopes everyone stays safe and healthy, and to take extreme safety precautions for you and your pets during this dangerous outbreak.