Canine Flu

As we enter the fall and winter season, we all become aware of the risk for contracting influenza for ourselves and our family members.  However, there is one family member that we don’t always consider as being at risk, our family dog.Dog flu

In 2004, a new strain of influenza was found affecting racing greyhounds at race tracks in Florida.  It was discovered that this strain of flu was a mutation from equine influenza and had jumped from the horses at the tracks to the dog population.  This flu stain was given the name of H3N8.  Initially it was contained to just the track population of greyhounds but in 2005 it started to be found in other dog populations in the Florida area.  With this being a new viral strain to the dog population, no dogs had any natural immunity and the disease has spread across the United States at a rapid pace.

So we have a very high infection rate in exposed dogs and their symptoms of the disease can vary a great deal in the population.  The disease is spread through the oral and nasal secretions of a sick dog being either directly shed onto an unexposed dog or the virus can persist for days on bowls, toys, and leashes.  We feel that between 20-50% of the dogs infected will mount an immune response and have no or minimal symptoms of the disease.  However, 50-80% of the exposed dogs will become sick and show symptoms.  Runny nose, coughing, soreness, and fever are the most common symptoms.  Of these sick dogs, a small percentage will develop pneumonia and national numbers suggest about a 5-8% mortality rate, especially if not treated aggressively.  The pets will usually show symptoms in 2-5 days after exposure and symptoms can persist for 14-28 days.

The infection can be difficult to diagnosis because the symptoms initially are the same as several other less sever upper respiratory infections.  A PCR test from a nasal or throat swab can be done to ID the virus but must be done in the first 3-4 days after symptoms develop and many times pets are not seen that quickly for this test to be effective.  Flu titers can be done as well but you need two blood samples taken 2-3 weeks apart, so this test is not effective for rapid diagnosis.  If your pet starts showing the symptoms of coughing, nasal discharge, soreness, and fever, they should be seen promptly by your veterinarian and testing and treatment can be initiated.

The good news is we now have a very effective vaccine for the canine influenza virus.  The vaccine has a great track record for safety and effectiveness at preventing the serious pneumonia complications of canine flu infection.    If a dog has never been vaccinated prior for the flu virus, the vaccine is given as an initial vaccine and then a booster 2-4 weeks later.  Protective antibody levels can be maintained from that point with just one annual booster.

As we approach the time of year when we see an increase in dogs being boarded as their owners travel for the holidays, the need for getting our dogs vaccinated for influenza increases.  If you have plans to board your pet in the near future, you should make sure they are current on their vaccinations to include Rabies, Distemper/Parvo/Para-influenza, Bordetella, Influenza, and a negative fecal test.   Don’t let time slip away and find out at the last minute your pet is unprotected for their boarding appointment.

Matthew Thompson DVM


For the month of October, we are having some fun by hosting a pet costume contest.  So let your imagination run wild and capture those pictures of decked out critters in costume.  Submit your picture entries via Facebook private message, by email to, or hand deliver pictures to the clinic.  Submissions must be received by the end of business on 10/21/14 and the winners will be announced on 10/31/14.

Grand prize = $100 gift certificate to Cedar Park Animal Clinic

2 runners up = $25 gift certificate to Cedar Park Animal Clinic

Senior Pet Month

September is Senior Pet Month.

We believe it is very important to monitor our senior pets on a regular basis with a full physical exam and lab tests.  When yearly blood and urine tests are coupled with a complete exam and history, we feel we have the best opportunity to catch disease in the early stages.  This allows us to practice better medicine to help your older pets maintain a high quality of life in the golden years.  This year we have coupled with Idexx Labs to offer this service at a discounted price for the month of September.  Save $50 on your pets senior work up which includes a full body examination, complete CBC, a 25 panel organ chemistry, thyroid level, and a urinalysis.   Please call today to book your appointment for the month of September.

Take Caution With The Heat

So far this spring we have been experiencing cooler than normal temperatures, which human and furry friends alike have surely been enjoying. However, we can expect the month of May to bring warmer days, which will likely also encourage more outdoor activities, in which most of us will want to enjoy with our pets. With the increase in heat and activity, the possibility of heat exhaustion and heat stroke becomes a real concern.

Dogs can only dissipate heat from a small area in their feet, where sweat glands are located, as well as through their oral cavity by panting.   To add to this, many family dogs are thick coated and/or overweight, which further insulates them and impedes heat loss. Because of the dogs methods of heat dispersion, it is obvious that dogs are better designed for working in colder climates. However, even then they are at risk of overheating. It was reported that dogs suffered heat exhaustion during the Alaskan sled race, the Iditarod,  a few years ago because the air temperatures that year stayed around the low 30′s.  This is a testament to the amount of heat a working dog can generate, even in freezing temperatures and snow.

There has been an apparent trend over the past 4-5 years where the majority of heat stroke/exhaustion  cases present in the month of May and June.  The easiest explanation for this is due to unfit, unconditioned pets who have been taking the winter months off and are starting to get out and be active again. It should also be noted that day time temperatures typically jump 15 to 25 degrees over a short period of time. The rise in ambient temperatures combined with out of shape pets is the perfect formula for heat exhaustion/stroke.

The normal temperature of a dog at rest is usually between 100 and 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit.  Exercise induced temperatures can safely range between 102 to 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat exhaustion becomes a concern when temperature climb above 104 degrees, and heat stroke is seen when temperatures exceed 105 to 106 degrees. The internal temperature of the pet is only one component      involved when assessing overheating related cases. Overall hydration and length of time at elevated temperatures play into the larger picture and/or severity of the episode.

There are several symptoms of heat exhaustion/stroke to watch out for in your pet while enjoying the great outdoor this summer: Bright red gums, hyper salivation and thickening of the saliva, disorientation, weakness, laying down and reluctance to get back up.

 If you think your pet may be over heating…

    • Get them into a shady, cool spot immediately.
    • Use cool, but not cold, water and wet their entire body.
    • Allow them to drink small amounts of water, you can even drip cool water in their mouth, and on their feet.  Be careful when using wet rags and towels, as they can act as an insulator, trapping the heat next to the animals body. Do not cover the entire animal with the wet towel/rags and change them often to keep them cool.
    • If possible, monitor the pets temperature using a rectal thermometer. It is best to stop the cooling process when the body temperature hits 103 to 103.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
    •  Excessive cooling efforts can sling shot the pet into hypothermia and again restrict blood flow to tissues.
    • As soon as possible,  get the pet to veterinary care where iv fluids can be started and organ function and overall well being can be evaluated.

The best way to protect your pet against overheating is to prevent it.

  • Start exercising them slowly and gradually to help build physical fitness.
  • Avoid the hottest times of the day and take them out during the early mornings or late evenings, which are typically the coolest times of the day.
  •  Be sure to carry adequate fresh water for yourself and your pet, unless you are certain there is accessible, safe, fresh drinking water available along your route.

It is our goal to not see any heat exhaustion or heat strokes cases this year.  Help us reach this goal by being safe with your pets: plan ahead before you get out and exercise, walk, hike, or work your dogs this summer.
If you have any questions or want to discuss over heating problems further, feel free to give us a call.

Matt  Thompson DVM

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