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Pet Parents Need To Act Now To Protect Their Dogs From Canine Flu And Leptospirosis
The best defense against Canine Influenza and Leptospirosis is to have your dog vaccinated by your veterinarian immediately.
Recently, there have been several distressing news reports regarding outbreaks of Canine Flu and Leptospirosis (Lepto) putting dogs at risk for illness in Southern California. Both diseases can cause severe illness, and in some cases are fatal, so it’s important that pet parents are on high alert to keep their dogs safe and healthy. At the time of this writing, there have been over 70 confirmed cases of leptospirosis reported within the last month in Los Angeles county when there are normally 10-12 cases in the course of a year. In addition, Southern California is officially experiencing the largest outbreak of Canine Influenza the state has ever seen. Whether you live in California or not, it’s important to take preventative measures to keep your pet healthy.
With the increase in traveling, there is always a possibility that the outbreak could spread to new counties, cities, or states. Therefore, the best thing you can do is take your dog to your vet at the soonest opportunity to ensure he is vaccinated against both Canine Influenza and Lepto. Even if your dog has been vaccinated in the past, he may be due for a booster shot. Keeping your dog current on these vaccinations will mitigate his likelihood for catching one or both of these diseases, and will lower his risk of experiencing severe symptoms in the event he does become ill. As these diseases are highly contagious, it’s extra important to vaccinate your dogs if they frequently interact with other pups, such as at a doggy daycare, training classes, or the dog park.
Now that you know protecting your dog from catching Lepto or the flu could be lifesaving, you might be wondering what these diseases actually are and what makes them so dangerous. Let’s talk about Lepto first. Leptospirosis is normally a rare disease that is associated with waste from rats, and cases are normally more prevalent in rural areas. It’s thought that the current outbreak has been caused by a proliferation of homeless encampments throughout Los Angeles County, which are attracting rats. If caught early, Lepto can usually be treated successfully with antibiotics since it is a bacterial disease. But if left untreated, Lepto can cause irreversible kidney disease and death. Classic clinical symptoms of the disease include fever, increased drinking and urinating, lethargy and a decreased interest in food. If you suspect your dog has contracted leptospirosis, make sure to take them to the vet immediately for treatment and get checked yourself. Although no humans have been diagnosed with Lepto during the outbreak thus far, the disease can be transmitted from infected pets to people. While some people have no symptoms, others have extremely severe symptoms and have to face kidney damage, liver damage, respiratory distress, meningitis, or even death. Therefore, early treatment is of the utmost importance if you or your pet has been exposed. What’s even better is that a vaccination exists to prevent your pet from contracting the disease in the first place, which in turn protects you and your family members.
According to L.A. County Veterinary Health Officials, the Canine Influenza outbreak is widespread and not currently as controlled as they’d like. Canine Influenza tends to become prevalent during the cold and flu season during the Fall and Winter months, so the large amounts of early cases is unusual but can likely be attributed to an increase in “pandemic pups” attending doggy daycares as pet parents go back to working in the office. Canine influenza is spread when dogs come into contact with infected canines who spread the virus by coughing, barking, and sneezing. It can also be spread when dogs share contaminated objects, such as water bowls or toys. The symptoms of canine flu are similar to the human flu, and generally include a fever, runny nose, and a cough that doesn’t respond to antibiotics and lasts up to 21 days. In some cases, the flu can cause severe symptoms that result in irreversible damage or death. Virtually 100% of dogs that are exposed to Canine Influenza will become sick, so it’s extremely important to vaccinate your dog to boost his immunity, prevent cases, and mitigate symptoms.
While this information is a lot for pet parents to absorb, rest assured that you and your fur baby can most likely go about your life as normal if your pet has a current vaccination against both Lepto and Canine Influenza. However, make sure to consult with your vet for the best course of action if your dog is particularly young or elderly, or is immunocompromised. Although your dog will be well protected by their vaccinations, it is important to be aware of areas where disease transmission is most likely to occur and note that both Lepto and the Canine Flu can stay alive in dirt and shared surfaces for longer than you’d think.
For the foreseeable future, you may want to practice extra care at dog parks, doggie daycares, pet stores, popular dog walking areas, grooming salons, and other places where pets are likely to come in contact with each other or interact. While your dog’s vaccine likely protects them enough to go to these places, you may want to take precautions such as forbidding your dog from sharing water, treats, or toys with unknown dogs. If your dog seems to be feeling under the weather or there has been a known exposure, keep him home until he is healthy again to avoid spreading diseases to other dogs. By taking preventative action, you are doing your part to keep your pet, yourself, and all other dogs you come into contact with happy and healthy.