Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Geriatric Dogs

Whenever we choose to love an animal, we open ourselves up for the heartbreak caused by the fleetingness of their lives. They always leave us too soon.

In the past week, I've seen two videos about elderly dogs. This is about Baxter, a chow mix who died last week at age 19. Melissa James, Baxter's person, wrote a book called Moments With Baxter, about his career as a Hospice Therapy Dog

read more about Baxter and his work at Melissa's website

The other video features Otto, a 20 year old dachshund-terrier mix living in the UK who has been officially named (I don't know by whom) as the world's oldest dog. He seems extremely spritely, I would never have guessed he was that old.

I took Juniper to the vet tonight for a Bordetella booster in preparation for a trip. While there, I asked our vet about a flu vaccination (see comment on the last post for more about that) and about some arthritis issues I thought she might be having. After a blood test to rule out Lyme disease (my vet tells me that 68% of dogs who present the symptoms Juniper was showing are Lyme positive)we talked about what to watch for and what to do if her front leg stiffness gets worse. At 5 years old, I still think of her as a relatively young dog. However, she is always one of the older dogs at the dog park; most dogs who come there are less than 2 years old.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dog Flu

With so much attention focused on H1N1, or "Swine" flu, it's not surprising that a topic of conversation at the dog park would be Dog Flu. Someone had heard about a flu that was highly contagious and fatal, and concern was high.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, H3N8, or Canine Influenza was first seen in 2004, affecting racing greyhounds in Florida. During the summer of 2004, 14 racetracks in 6 states were affected. In 2005, 20 racetracks in 11 states showed outbreaks, and since then 30 states have reported the illness. Currently, Florida, Colorado, Pennsylvania and New York are said to have high levels of infections (as of September 2009).

The symptoms of H3N8 are respiratory; cough, sneezing, runny nose. The Canine Influenza FAQ, released by the University of Florida, says dogs do not have a built up immunity to this relatively new virus, and "Virtually all exposed dogs become infected; about 80% develop flu‐like illness, while another 20% do not become ill. " As with human influenza, it is not the primary disease that is fatal but the secondary infections that can set in while the immune system is compromised. The FAQ goes on to say "Fortunately, most dogs recover within 2 weeks without any further health complications. However, some dogs progress to pneumonia, which is usually due to secondary bacterial infections. While the overall mortality rate for canine influenza is low, the secondary pneumonia can be life‐threatening. There is no evidence for age or breed susceptibility for developing pneumonia during canine influenza.

How are dogs exposed to H3N8? Again, as with human influenza, the virus is spread by breathing particulates coughed or sneezed by an infected dog, direct contact with an infected dog, or with surfaces, food and water bowls, leashes, hand and clothing. However, the virus is inactivated by washing with soap and water. The virus is highly contagious, and infected dogs can shed the virus for 7 to 10 days while symptomatic, and infected dogs should be quarantined for 2 weeks. Dogs most at risk are those living in shelters or who spend time in other communal situations with high turn-over; grooming facilities, dog parks, doggie day care, etc. Dogs with minimal contact with other dogs have low risk of infection.

There is a vaccine for H3N8. The vaccine does not prevent infection, but limits the severity and secondary effects of the disease. Vaccinated dogs become less ill, and are less contagious. It is considered to be a "lifestyle" vaccine- appropriate for dogs whose lifestyle causes them to be more exposed to the virus. Dogs who get a Bordetella vaccine might benefit from the influenza vaccine, because the risk groups are the same.

Prevention at the dog park. While we can't keep dogs from mouthing each other (As one dog owner said to me "They don't have hands, this is how they grab each other!"), perhaps it is a good idea not to let dogs drink from a communal water source. Most important would be for owners to keep sick dogs home. I plan to get Juniper and Boodles vaccinated, just to be safe. There is always a lot of dog spit exchanged at the dog park.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Interesting Faces

This past weekend was the weekend of interesting faces at the dog park.

Boodles, Juniper and I spend quite a bit of time at the dog park. We're part of a fairly static group of regulars who come at about the same time in the evening. A slightly different group comes on the weekends. I always assume I know all the dogs who use the park, since we are there so much. This week there were some faces we hadn't seen for a while, and some new-to-us faces. All were pretty cute.

You may remember Gnarly, a sweetheart of an English Bulldog who played with Boodles back in April. We ran into him at the park this weekend. He's about 6 months old now, bigger, but still pretty cute.

One of the new-to-me faces was this good looking character. I loved the way the color splits his face. The picture is blurry because he never stopped moving.

This gorgeous baby was reluctant to come into the park, but warmed up to it after a while.
Huck acted as good-will ambassador and greeted him.
Dakota greeted Willow a young German Shepard, too.

The ground was exceptionally interesting to the children.

Boodles got an invitation to play from another new-to-us pup. She took him up on it, too.

But she was willing to share her friend with others.