Vets warn dog owners to watch for signs of H3N8

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BOUNTIFUL -- The H1N1 virus has been in the headlines for months, but what about H3N8 influenza? It doesn't affect humans, but it can affect your dog and make it very ill.

H3N8 is the fancy name for canine influenza, an illness that is fatal in 5 to 10 percent of dogs who get it. But a Bountiful vet says it all comes down to common sense in preventing the spread.

When KSL News visited Dr. Pam Nichols' office Tuesday, a 7-month-old Pomeranian came in with a cough. That is always a warning sign for Nichols.

"If we hear a dog has a cough, we'll isolate them," Nichols says.

In this case, it turns out the pup had a piece of bone stuck in his throat. Almost always, though, Nichols says that isn't the case. Instead, it's a symptom of kennel cough, or H3N8--canine influenza.

"The symptoms are just the same as a dog who has kennel cough. So, it's coughing, gagging, runny nose and fever," Nichols explains.

Some dogs develop secondary bacterial infections and require antibiotics or hospitalization. It's also highly contagious--100 percent of dogs who come into contact with H3N8 will contract it.

The virus is most easily spread from dog to tog but can live on surfaces like walls and floors for an extended period of time. It can also live on a human's hands and clothes for up to 24 hours.

The American Animal Hospital Association is tracking canine influenza in multiple states, including Utah. Nichols isn't recommending people vaccinate their dogs just yet. Vaccination doesn't prevent the illness, it just lessens the symptoms.

"I don't want to over-vaccinate for something that won't kill your pet. On the other hand, we don't want to miss them and have them get really sick. It's a fine line," Nichols says.

She does say common sense goes a long way. Pay close attention to dogs at parks and day care centers. If they're coughing, you probably want to leave.

And if your dog has a cough, alert your vet before taking it in. They may want to examine your pet outside.

"No need to panic. Just be smart," Nichols says.

Nichols also recommends the smell test when checking out a potential boarding facility, day care or vet's office. If the place smells, it may not be clean.

Also, be sure to ask about vaccination records. Places that track that are more likely to have healthy dogs.


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Sarah Dallof


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