DOG FLU, EMERGENCY! Wait…really?

Dog with a bag of cold water on his head

Image Courtesy of DepositPhotos.com

On May 2, Denison honors and celebrates hero dogs with a fun day at Heritage Park, with vendors, blessing of the dogs, food and even adoption events. There’s a parade with military hero theme, lots of contests like retrieving, dachshund races, obedience, dress-up, and talent. I’ve attended as a judge in the past, and it’s great fun for the entire family, including the dog.

I spoke with local veterinarian Dr. Clay Morris of Brakebill Veterinary Hospital about precautions when you take your pet out-and-about to such events. Very young, very old, and immunocompromised dogs are at most risk for contracting any infectious illness, so be sure your pooch is protected.

“Dogs don’t interact like people, riding the bus every day and going to work,” he says, so they’re not as likely to be exposed or transmit illness as people. Be sure your dog is protected against the most common dangers like Parvo and distemper with proper vaccinations.

What about dog flu? “We’ve had no cases at all, luckily,” says Dr. Morris. “Area veterinarians are certainly monitoring the situation.” He assured me that clients will be notified of any change in status but right now dog flu is not a concern in our area. “Specialists tell us the virus is a localized outbreak currently limited to the Chicago area.”

Of course, that’s good for us, not so good for Chicago pet parents. Here’s the information you need to know.

DOG FLU IN THE NEWS

Approximately 1000 dogs have been affected by the Chicago-area outbreak of canine infectious respiratory disease (CIRD) caused by canine influenza. While it is serious for dogs that are affected, the news media has latched onto this “sexy” story and spread it farther than the virus itself is likely to be able to travel.

Dr. Patrick Mahaney, a contributor to www.petMD.com, and other expert sources like Cornell University and its New York State Animal Diagnostic Laboratory, have shared basic information about this disease.

TWO DIFFERENT VIRUSES INVOLVED

Just as with people, there are different kinds of flu that affect animals. Canine influenza A (H3N8) virus is closely related to a common flu virus that has been found in horses for more than 40 years. It’s thought that the virus mutated and became infectious to dogs, with first reported outbreak ten years ago in 2004 in Greyhounds. Today, H3N8 is considered a dog-specific canine flu.

The Chicago outbreak of dog flu is caused by a newer strain. This is the first appearance of  Influenza A H3N2 strain of the virus in North America; however, it was first detected in 2007 in dogs in South Korea.

It’s thought that this a “bird flu” adapted to affect dogs, and canine H3N2 virus has since been reported in China and Thailand where it reportedly can affect cats as well as dogs. However, studies indicate that neither virus transmits well to other companion animal species. Further, it is different from human seasonal H3N2 viruses. There have been no reports of dog-to-human transmission, and it is not considered contagious to people.

HOW DOGS CATCH FLU

Dog flu is highly contagious between dogs. Nearly 100% of dogs exposed to the virus get it–but not all get sick. The virus is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids—sneezing, coughing, sniffing, licking.

Stress caused by travel, confinement or interaction with strange dogs, for example increases your dog’s susceptibility. “Environments that promote canine congregation – such as boarding facilities and dog parks – are also hot zones for various diseases,” says Dr. Mahaney.

SIGNS OF DOG FLU

Both strains of dog flu can cause high fever, loss of appetite, coughing, nasal discharge, and lethargy. Some dogs develop red or runny eyes, and in most cases, there’s a history of contact with other sick or “carrier” dogs.

  • MILD FORM: Dogs with mild symptoms may have a “wet” cough (resembling “kennel cough”) with nasal discharge. In mild cases, these signs last 10 to 30 days and usually go away on their own. Cough suppressants and/or antibiotics may be prescribed if a secondary bacterial infection exists. According to Cornell, some infected dogs won’t show signs at all (some experts say probably 20% are asymptomatic)—however, they are still contagious and can spread the disease.
  • SEVERE FORM: Symptoms may be more severe in cases caused by the H3N2 virus. Signs may be a high sudden fever (above 104 degrees Fahrenheit), followed by hemorrhagic pneumonia, coughing up blood and difficulty breathing. Illness can be complicated with bacterial pneumonia. Hospitalization with aggressive treatment with antibiotics, fluids are vital. Isolation to protect other dogs from contracting the disease is important.

DIAGNOSING & PREVENTION CHALLENGE

Diagnosis is based on symptoms and a battery of tests that may include blood analysis, lung Xrays, and microscopic examination of samples from the lungs. There is a specific test available for the dog flu, but not the new variant. Cornell advises veterinarians that the Rt-PCR test may detect Influenza A H3N8, but the H3N2 may not be detected. However, an H3N2-specific serologic assay is under development and will be available soon.

Dr. Mahaney notes that a vaccine (Nobivac® Canine Flu H3N8) is available. Again, it isn’t known if this will also protect against the H3N2 strain. Your veterinarian will advise you best whether the vaccination is a good idea for your dog. In areas like Chicago where the viruses are active, avoid places where dogs congregate, such as dog parks and grooming salons.

Again, no cases have been reported in my neck of the woods here in North Texas. So for those attending the Denison event next Saturday, just be sure your pet is healthy, on a leash, and has proof of current vaccinations. For very young, very old or immune-challenged pets, leave them home while you enjoy the day! For details, visit DenisonLive.com.

For more information about dog flu, refer to these links:

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Curing Magic Markers: Acral Lick Granulomas & What to Do

Compulsive licking? Weepy eyes? What the heck are acral lick granulomas?

CURING MAGIC MARKERS & CANINE ACRAL LICK GRANULOMA

UPDATE: It’s February 2017, and we’re still fighting the sores. Every time I go on a trip, the stress prompts more licking and Magic’s rear paws get sore all over again. But we’ve stumbled onto something that really seems to help–and it’s a DUH! moment for me. The answer?

Pain medicine.

Magic will soon be 11 years old, and discomfort from creaky joints has gotten worse. So initially, until we could get something from the vet, I gave him low dose aspirin (per the veterinarian’s dosage in my pet First Aid book). And…he stopped licking, too! Scroll on down for the rest of the story . . .

dog licking its paw

When your pet is so itchy he licks sores onto his legs, what’s a caring pet owner to do? Image Copr. DepositPhotos.com/Quasarphoto

Magic has been miserable, chewing and scratching himself nearly 24/7 for the past two months. We attributed all the itch-icity to bug bites, although he’s on a monthly flea preventative.

Then we noticed he’d begun lick-lick-licking his left “wrist” until the fur wore off, and skin turned raw. Again, we figured he’d had a bug bite or other minor irritation that caused the problem. By keeping it clean and interrupting his licking, the spot healed and fur began to re-grow.

SoreEyes

Thick sticky tears from weepy eyes that’s hard to clean away–hair loss around his eyes. The vet suspected “dry eye.” Yikes!

About the same time, his eyes began to water more than usual. This happened right after one of his games of “hose tag” so we figured he’d just had a bit of water irritation. But even as the front leg healed, he began licking the toes on a rear foot, again self-barbering away fur and leaving the area raw. On top of that, the front “wrist” area looked thickened like a large callus even with most fur back in place. The outside base of one ear became sore and itchy.

FLEAS? ATOPY? ACRAL LICK SORES? AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE?!

Now, after writing about many different doggy ailments over the years, I always fear the worst. Our first German Shepherd had such devastating skin disease that at one time, he became nearly bald with itchy sores all over his ears and body, and his skin turned black from saliva stains. He had to eat a homemade diet, be bathed twice a week, and take 14 pills of various kinds every day. He only returned to near-normal when we moved to Texas but was never fully healthy.

canine acral lick granuloma

Magic’s left front “wrist” with saliva-stained thickened skin–but at least the fur has begun to return and it’s no longer raw.

acral lick granuloma

Magic’s left rear paw–he licks the top of the toes, too, but fur has covered that portion up. The dark place is stained hairless tissue–it’s healed, but was bright red and raw.

Magic has always been extraordinarily healthy, so it came as a shock to see some of the same signs that our first dog had suffered. I suspected it could be a couple of things—lick sores are common in German Shepherds—but worried it might even be an autoimmune issue (way scary!). Guessing gets nothing done, and it takes a professional to figure things out. Last week, we took him to the veterinarian to find out what was going on, and how to keep him comfortable.

Now, Magic LOVES the vet—licks all over his face!—but he’s a big dog and won’t allow certain handling. While the veterinarian echoed some of my initial suspicions, a definitive diagnosis required tests in order to prescribe the right meds. So we agreed to leave him for sedation so a skin scrapping of the sores, an ear culture, and a tear test could be done.

 

MAGIC’S DIAGNOSIS

The good news—it is NOT an autoimmune issue. Whew! More good news—Magic’s tear test was normal, so we’re not dealing with dry eye. While it’s not common, the vet suspected teary eyes were a result of allergies.

More good news—no ear flushing was needed, the inflammation was isolated to the external base of the front of the ear. Again, this was attributed to allergies (probably atopic dermatitis). While in the past, atopy has been defined as “inhalant” allergic dermatitis, today it’s considered more of a contact allergy with paw-pad exposure and absorption of allergens being a big influence. Wow…knowing that could have helped our first dog enormously!

On to the spots on Magic’s paw and leg—and yep, they were diagnosed as lick sores, technically called acral lick granulomas. The skin scraping indicated bacteria was present, too. There are LOTS of causes, from an initial irritation to stress, boredom, and even obsessive-compulsive issues.

WHAT IS ACRAL LICK GRANULOMA?

With acral lick granulomas, the dog incessantly licks a selected area, usually on a lower leg, which creates a raised, hairless ulcerative plaque—almost a callus that surrounds the never-healing sore. The constant licking makes the area itch and can cause secondary bacterial infection. This prompts further licking to relieve the itch, and a vicious cycle is created.

Any dog can be affected, but the condition most commonly affects males older than three years. The syndrome is often seen in large active-breed dogs that demand a lot of owner interaction, such as Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Doberman Pinchers, Great Danes, and you guessed it—German Shepherds.

Treatment is difficult in many cases, and some dogs may never be completely cured. Infections may respond to antibiotics, and steroids may temporarily soothe itchiness.

MAGIC’S Rx

Magic was given cephalexin antibiotic, Betagen topical spray for the sores, and low dose prednisolone to calm the whole body itch. The veterinarian says he’ll need to be on the antibiotic for at least two months (probably longer) until both lesions completely heal since often these are deep seated infections—and they could recur down the road. The steroid is low-dose and will be gradually reduced.

The night Magic came home he was still woozy from the sedation. But by the next day and just one round of medication, he already felt so much better! We’re now about five days into the treatment, and with the itchiness calmed, both leg sores have made great progress toward healing, and his eyes no longer water incessantly.

GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS

In many cases, giving dogs stricken with lick sores more one-on-one time can help reduce boredom and stress. Since I work at home, Magic has attention pretty much all the time, but there has been quite a lot of stress over the past several months due to job changes. Dogs can react to an owner’s stress—so I need to work on handling my own angst-icity!

Dogs that are confined alone for long periods of time tend to have more problems. Some dogs respond favorably when another pet is adopted into the home. Magic has Karma—the jury is out on whether that’s helpful or added stress! The habit may be interrupted in some dogs through the use of veterinary prescribed drugs used in treating obsessive/compulsive disorders. All that, of course, is up to the veterinarian and based on the individual dog’s situation.

GSD acral lick granuloma

UPDATE 2-20-17: Magic no longer licks his front paws, and the back ones are ALMOST healed. The vet wants us to treat 2 weeks beyond resolution so paws crossed this takes care of the issue.

Have you ever had a dog that suffered with “lick sores?” How did you manage it? Were the lesions healed, and were there any relapses? What else should I watch for with Magical-Dawg?

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Hairball Prevention, Not Just For Cats!

Pomeranian-RickieB20-Flickr

Pomeranians may develop hairballs, too. Image Copr. RickieB20/Flickr

Hairballs are the bane of cat owners but hairballs can also affect dogs. How many of y’all have discovered Fluffy’s “gift” by walking barefoot late at night? That cigar-shaped slick nasty “squish” disgusts pet owners, and though it’s quite common for cats to urk up the occasional hairball–it is NOT normal.

This Friday is National Hairball Awareness Day, and Dr. Jane Brunt of the Catalyst Council offers some good advice. “The cat has developed a digestive tract that, when it is healthy and working correctly, can handle normal amounts of fur without problem. Even long haired cats should not develop more than one or two hairballs a year,” says Dr. Brunt. “There have been a lot of recent scientific studies about vomiting in cats and that it may be an indication of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, which can progress to cancer.”

Yikes! Hear more from Dr. Brunt on the subject in this podcast.

Persian Show Cat

Persians potentially have more coat to choke on…but even the shorthair beauties can develop hairballs. Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

Cats groom themselves, of course, by lick-lick-licking and subsequently swallowing some of the fur. This time of year when shedding takes place, there’s more fur to swallow. When it doesn’t make its way out the normal method and end up in the litter box, fur collects inside the cat and causes irritation and sometimes constipation and blockage. The lucky cats get rid of the mass (technically called a bezoar). It’s more than a nasty nuisance, so as Dr. Jane Brunt says, get your cat checked if your kitty’s “urking” more than normal.

This time of year, dogs also “blow coat” and end up shedding great wads of fuzz. Learn more about shedding here. With my black German Shepherd, Magic, we typically have drifts of dark fuzz left in hunks here and there. It must be itchy, too, because Magic does quite a lot more self-grooming through scratching and nibbling. While big dogs don’t typically hark up hairballs, smaller pooches with thick coats–like Pomeranians–can develop hairballs and either vomit them up or become constipated or even blocked.

So what can you do? With either dogs or cats, good grooming strips away the loose fur as it’s shed. That prevents it being swallowed, developing into painful mats, and helps keep your carpet (relatively) fur free. My fav grooming tool for both cats and dogs is the how to give pets as giftsSeren loves getting combed with this, and Magical-Dawg with his longer coat can lose half his body mass with one session! (Not really, but it does look like that…)

What are some of your grooming tips to prevent hairballs, mats and other “big hairy deals” in your pets? Do tell!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Do you have a new kitten and need answers? I’m a new Brand Ambassador for The Honest Kitchen and you can get FREE samples here, check it out! (Karma loves this!). Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Dog Tail Injury? When Wags Hurt & Dealing with Tail Wag Trauma

We love it when our happy dogs wag-wag-wag with joy. Dogs talk with their tails, but too much wagging can result in dog tail injury. Tail talk expresses emotion and communicates so much, but what do you do when wags hurt? Labradors are notorious for dog tail injury. Here’s how to deal with tail wag trauma.Labrador

Dog Tail Injury: Why Tail Trauma Happens

That tail is one of the most expressive parts of the dog–or cat–body. It’s not unusual for a friendly flail to clear tabletops. But what can you do when the wagging wacks walls, and there’s trauma to twining tail tips? (say THAT fast five times!)

Big dogs like Labradors are so happy—and so large—that happy wagging bangs the tail tip bloody. Pet tails can also be shut in doors, stepped on, or otherwise hurt. Once dog tail injury happens, tails are very prone to re-injury and can stay sore and battered.

The condition isn’t a medical emergency but is painful for the dog or cat. It can also be messy when the injured tail splatters blood around the room. With chronic tail wag trauma, medical attention is needed to speed the healing, but home care also works well.

dog tail injuryHOME FIRST AID FOR DOG TAIL INJURY

Benadryl has a sedative effect and is very safe. You can give one milligram for every pound the pet weighs to temporarily slow the wagging. That can help keep your dog tail injury from becoming worse, and give it a chance to heal.

Hair not only hides the wound, it also collects bacteria and holds blood like a paintbrush. When the tail is very furry, carefully clip away the hair with blunt scissors. Electric clippers are a safer choice for fur removal.

Usually infection isn’t a problem, but it’s still best to quickly clean up the tail. The simplest and most effective technique is to dip the tail in a pan of cold water for several minutes. That rinses off the wound, helps stop the bleeding and reduces inflammation. Then gently pat the tail dry with a clean cloth.

If the dog or cat won’t allow tail dipping, apply an ice cube to the area to numb the pain and reduce swelling. The damage prompts the body to release chemicals called histamines that cause swelling and inflammation. Inflammation can break down the cells and cause permanent damage. Ice stops the process. Once the injury is clean and dry, apply a thin film of antibacterial ointment like Neosporin to help prevent infection.

HOW TO BANDAGE A DOG TAIL INJURY

Bandage the tail to contain the bleeding (and protect your furniture), and pad the injury to keep your pet from re-injuring the sore spot.

Cat’s tails are particularly difficult to bandage, but for dogs, pull a clean cotton tube sock over the end of the tail. It should be long enough to cover two-thirds of the length of the tail itself. Then wrap tape over the sock, beginning at the tip of the tail and working toward the body, in a diagonal crisscross pattern. Be sure to run the tape two inches beyond the cuff of the sock and directly onto the fur. Finally, run the tape back down from the body to the tail tip, again in a diagonal pattern, which makes it difficult for the dog to pull off. This bandage technique (and others) are illustrated and described in pet first aid books.

first-aid

Change bandages at least every three days, or oftener if it gets wet or dirty. Apply Neosporin to the area with each bandage change. If the veterinarian recommends you leave the tail uncovered, apply the ointment two to four times a day since dogs and cats tend to lick it off. Some pets may need a prescription tranquilizer to calm tail movement until it can heal. Antibiotics may also be needed. Check with your vet to be sure any medication doesn’t cause diarrhea or other issues.

A collar restraint also can keep him from chewing, licking or pulling at the bandage or tail injury. Or smear Vicks Vapor Rub on the bandage—the menthol odor repels most pets and keeps tongue and teeth at bay.

Some injuries require that the damaged tail tip amputated. If that happens, fur tends to grow over the end and hides the loss. Your pet will never miss the, er, missing link.

Make some changes in the pet’s environment to avoid a repeat of the tail trauma. Bigger dogs need larger areas where they can swing their tails without banging walls, or clearing off the coffee table.

Has your dog (or cat) ever suffered a tail injury? How did it happen? What treatment was required? Do tell!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Cover Reveal (again!) and NAME THAT PET Results!

Nope, you’re not high on puppy Prozac. The cover of the book has changed! In fact, this is version number seven, and it’s by far the most striking and mysterious, while offering a taste of what to expect. Like it? I love it! While many folks (me included) thought the first cover worked extremely well, the powers-that-be decided to go another direction.

Isn’t that a great cover quote from D.P. Lyle? I just received another terrific advance quote from the awesome Dr. Marty Becker. Read about ’em on the LOST AND FOUND page.

NAME THAT PET CONTEST RESULTS

Thank you to everyone for your participation in the “Name That Dog” and “Name That Cat” contests to help me find the perfect choices for some of the furry characters in the book LOST AND FOUND.

More than 85 terrific cat and dog names were suggested. I narrowed the choices to about a dozen each, set up polls for you to vote, and we had over 800 votes result.

I’d say pet people are passionate about pet names! Without further delay, here are the results.

DOG HEROES NAMED

Caren Gittleman suggested the winning dog name Dakota because it means “trusted friend” and is also the name of her lovely Sheltie (who helps her co-write Dakota’s Den Blog).

In the book LOST AND FOUND, the main character September mourns the loss of her heart-dog (we’ve all been there right?) who died trying to save her husband. Therefore, her long lost canine partner DAKOTA is mentioned throughout the book.

Raelyn Barclay offered several dog name suggestions including Bruno, which won the second hero dog spot. Congratulations!

When September’s nephew becomes lost in the blizzard, she enlists the aid of a still active senior citizen tracking dog to find the boy. BRUNO is the star in that chapter, and demonstrates that old dogs still have the stuff of heroes.

CAT HEROES NAMED

Patricia suggested the winning cat name Macy. This name garnered more than a hundred individual votes from readers, wow! Macy is the name of Patricia’s seven-year-old yellow tabby, and named after a character in the Bold and the Beautiful television show.

September’s sable and white Maine coon cat is mentioned throughout the book, including cat-training scenes that demonstrate just how smart cats truly are! Macy literally “nails” the villain at just the right moment to help save the day.

Karyl Cunningham has been one of my most faithful blog followers (~waving at Karyl) so I’m delighted readers chose one of her name selections as the second cat hero character–Simba is the second cat name winner. Simba is the name of Karyl’s slightly chubby, arthritic senior citizen kitty.

As in all good thrillers, tragic victims often kick off the story. The first is a lovely woman in the wrong place at the wrong time, and she leaves behind a beloved rescue kitty–Simba, slightly chubby aging kitty with a bit of arthritis who finds a forever home with the victim’s daughter.

In addition to having their pets’ names spotlighted in the book, and their own contribution noted in the acknowledgements, these four winners  will receive an advance copy of the book.

SPECIAL THANKS

Thank you again to everyone who suggested names and voted. The response demonstrates to me why I love pets–and writing about them so much–because never mind the age or breed or attitude. In our heart of hearts, true pet lovers know that EVERY dog and cat has a hero inside them.

LOST AND FOUND is scheduled for release September 20 in Amazon Kindle (and other Ebook formats), with print versions available about a week later. I will of course post to my blog (here) as well as Facebook, but will also send out an email newsletter notification–if I have your email.

In fact, what the hey. Send me an email to amy @ shojai.com with LOST AND FOUND in the subject line between now and the release date, and I’ll add you to the drawing for a free copy of the book. Don’t be shy, you can share this with other thriller/pet lovers.

Now go pet your hero dogs and cats for me. Oh, and stay tuned–the regular WOOF WEDNESDAY blog will go out later today with more puppy-licious info. 🙂

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay tuned for more news about my forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND!