Risk management during canine influenza outbreaks

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By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

Do you remember the Great Canine Influenza Outbreak of 2015? (It was horrible.) Well, it’s baaaaack – there’s been an uptick in cases in various locations across North America this year. As always, it pays to be vigilant about risk management so that we don’t end up with shuttered boarding facilities, overwhelmed veterinary hospitals, and very sick dogs. 

There are two different dog flu viruses: H3N8 (first reported in the U.S. in 2004, with a vaccine available since 2010) and H3N2 (first reported in the U.S. in early 2015). H3N8 was originally an equine flu virus that jumped to dogs; H3N2 was originally an avian flu virus. There is no evidence that either strain can be transmitted to humans.

Everyone with a dog who goes potty outside will run the risk of meeting another dog who may be currently asymptomatic for the flu, but still contagious. Here are some tips for managing these interactions in a way that will minimize the chances of your dog becoming infected.

  • No greetings! There is a 2-4 day incubation period for canine influenza, and that perfectly healthy looking dog may be shedding the virus all over the place. Some dogs may have the flu but be completely asymptomatic. No greetings means no nose-to-nose, no saliva exchange, and no butt sniffing.  Since the virus is exchanged through respiratory secretions, stay out of sneezing range. If you live in an elevator building, pick up your dog and carry him outside if he’s small enough; this will keep him out of range of other dogs and away from contaminated surfaces on the inside of the elevator, in stairwells, and in lobbies or entryways.
  • Keep your dog under control at all times. This means a 6’ leash, shortened as much as possible when passing other dogs. If you’re using a 26’ flexi-leash, you’re not in control of your dog. If you think you don’t need to keep your dog on a leash because “he always listens to you”, then think again. You may be willing to risk your own dog’s health by letting him roam untethered, but it’s unfair to other owners to let your dog be Patient Zero just because you think he should be a free agent.
  • Good hygiene is your friend. Wash your hands, wipe your shoes, and clean your surfaces, especially if you have contact with other dogs. CIV can be spread by direct contact with infected dogs, by contact with contaminated objects, and by moving contaminated objects between infected and uninfected dogs. If you have a multi-dog household, take care of the healthy dogs before touching the sick ones, and keep them apart as much as possible.
  • Evaluate your risk. Canine flu shots are considered “lifestyle” vaccinations, and are highly recommended for dogs who go to daycare, boarding, dog parks, or play groups. A single dog who rarely leaves the yard will be at considerably less risk for infection.
  • Vaccinate. Whether you have a stay-at-home or highly social dog, ask your vet about vaccinations. It’s a two step shot (an initial shot and a booster a few weeks later), and if your dog isn’t already sick it can help prevent or mitigate the effects of the flu. You can get a single shot that covers both strains (called a “bivalent”); you’ll still need a booster in about three weeks, and peak immunity won’t kick in until a couple of weeks after the booster. My dogs tend to be a bit sleepy for about 24 hours after a vaccination, but to be honest I’ve never been able to tell if it’s because of the shot or because they’re grumpy about having been to the vet. Regardless, let your pup take it easy for a day or so after the vaccination.

How do you know if your dog has the flu? Well, sometimes you won’t know; it’s not unusual for dogs to show no signs of illness. But the usual flu symptoms include reduced appetite, lethargy, cough, runny nose, fever, and eye discharge. Most dogs recover in a few weeks, but if your dog develops a secondary infection it can lead to pneumonia, or, in rare cases, death.

If your dog is displaying any of these symptoms, or even just seems a little bit off, it’s always best to see your vet – and remember to practice good space management and hygiene while you’re in the waiting room. In addition to being contagious, sick dogs can be more snappish that normal, so you’ll want to keep a little extra space between you and the other pets. You can request to be put into an exam room or a separate waiting area to reduce the risk of contagion or dust-ups.

For more information about canine influenza, see articles on the AVMA and CDC websites. 

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Traveling with your dog? Bring these essentials on your next trip!

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By Elena Sipe

You’ve packed, you’ve planned, the big moment is finally approaching: the day you leave for your trip. You’ve gotten your things together, but what about your dog?

If it’s your first time traveling with your dog, I have some good news! You don’t need to bring a ton of special travel things.

All you need are the things you and your dog use on a regular basis at home—a leash is a good starting point (plus an extra in case of breakage), plus a couple travel-specific items whose presence will make your lives a whole lot easier.

Carrier – This is the Swiss Army knife of dog traveling. Whether you’re flying or traveling by car, you’ll want a carrier that your dog is comfortable being in for long periods of time.

If you’re flying with your dog in-cabin, it goes under your seat. If you’re in the car, put the seat belt or pet-specific restraint around it for an instant boost in car safety. When you get to your destination, it’s your dog’s familiar bed.

Plus, if your carrier has pockets, this is a great place to store smaller dog accessories. Think of it as your dog’s suitcase and their bed!

Collapsible bowls – These often come with a carabiner clip and collapse flat for easy storage. This means you can attach them to a leash, put them in a small pocket, and hang them off a bag to dry. Use a permanent marker to mark the amount of food you normally feed your dog on the bowl before you travel, which eliminates the need to bring a measuring cup.

Poop bags and holder – When you’re rushing around trying to pack, you’re bound to forget things. I prefer to dummy-proof this process by having a poop bag and holder attached to the leash. You can’t forget something that’s attached!

It’s a good idea to bring an extra roll or two of bags (shove them in the nooks and crannies of your luggage) so you don’t run out.

Toys – Bring a chew or activity toy to keep your dog busy while you’re in transit. They take little to no room in your luggage, and even if your dog can destroy the toughest Kong on the market, they’re also readily available at pet stores, so you can replenish along the way! 

Depending on your dog’s affinity for stuffies or fetch toys, you may be able to get away with just one or two. Bring only their favorites. If your dog likes stuffed toys but not fetch, just bring a stuffed toy. If they like both, bring both. A toy is nice because it is something that’s familiar to your dog and it gives them something to cuddle or burn off some energy.

Mess kit – Poop happens. So do other messes. Make sure you  pack wipes, towels, pee pads, and cleaners to clean them up so you can easily move on to the fun parts of your trip!

Vaccination papers, health certificates, and ID tags –  It’s always a good idea to have a copy of your dog’s vaccinations, your vet’s contact info, and an emergency vet at your destination (it may even be a legal requirement to travel through some states). Depending on where you’re going, you may need a vet-issued health certificate. It’s a good idea to keep a digital copy of all this, along with a copy on you and in your dog’s carrier if applicable.

Make sure your dog’s ID tags are current; it’s a good idea to get one for your dog’s carrier as well. If traveling internationally, include an email address and Skype or Google Voice number where you can be reached.

First aid kit – This doesn’t have to be extensive, but should include basic wound treatments, antibacterial cream, tweezers or a tick key, flea preventatives, generic tablets of benadryl for bee stings, and any medications (and prescriptions, if you anticipate needing refills) that your dog needs. If your dog needs a special shampoo or other skin treatment, this is a good place to put it.

Waterproof bag for dog food and treats – Bring along as much of your dog’s food as makes sense. At a minimum, this should be a day’s worth, as it allows you some time to locate dog food at your destination. Putting it in a waterproof, reusable bag helps keep it fresh.

That’s about it!

As you can see, you really don’t need to bring much more for traveling with your dog than what you normally use at home. If you can, take a couple of short trips with your dog before going on longer adventures; you’ll get hands-on experience to learn what you really need to bring with you, and what is just taking up room in your bag. Refine as you go, and remember that you can always replenish at a pet store if needed!

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elena-sipe-switzerland-300x276Elena is an adventure-seeker, world traveler, foodie, and all-around nerd person that is rarely seen without her rescue dog, Alfie, by her side. When not hiking or spending time near water, Elena can be found eating, cuddling with Alfie, enjoying nerdy books, and learning, which her and Alfie both love though only one of them gets treats for it.

Is your pet emergency kit up to date?

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By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

Every year, once I’ve gotten through the Dreaded Tax Season, I like to take stock of my pet emergency kit. It’s a good time of year to do it, before the spring and summer storms start in earnest.

What is an emergency kit? It’s an easy-to-carry, always-stocked bag containing everything you might need if you have to seek shelter with the pets; it also does double duty as a vacation/travel kit. Inside our bag I like to keep the following basic items:

  • Food, water, and medicine (three days’ worth for each pet)
  • First aid kit (including rolls of gauze and/or some kind of self-adhering bandages)
  • An extra collar and leash for each pet
  • Collapsible travel bowls
  • A bunch of poop bags
  • A couple of trash bags
  • Muzzles (in case you have to shelter with other people/pets)
  • Clorox wipes
  • Duct tape
  • Paper towels
  • A half dozen puppy pads (good for absorbing accidental messes or lining crates)
  • A couple of these fancy space blankets
  • A zip lock bag containing pictures, descriptions, contact info, designated caregiver info, and up-to-date health certificates for each pet. Technically, you should have current health certificates any time you cross state lines with your pets, and in an emergency situation you don’t want to risk having your pets turned away for lack of documentation.

You should rotate the food and medicine out of the kit periodically, to make sure it doesn’t go stale or expire. If you have special travel crates for each pet, keep the emergency kit with the crate; having everything in one place will save valuable time if you need to evacuate in a hurry.

Everyone’s pet emergency kit is going to be different, and some of the supplies (like water) will overlap with your people emergency kit. The ASPCA has a good checklist for species-specific disaster preparedness kits.

Updating and replenishing the emergency kit is a good reminder to check on the other logistics of your dog’s life as well. Is the microchip information accurate? Are the buckles on the collars and the clips on the leashes still sound? Are the tags still legible? Do I need to renew dog park or city licenses? Is it time to schedule a wellness visit/get more medication/sign up for training classes?

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If you own or run a pet care business, check out the Pet Care Facility Emergency Preparedness course from IBPSA!

 

 

Better than chocolate

Jamie and Mimsy

By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

I found this nifty little graph of how much money the average person spent on their pet on Valentine’s Day from 2008-2016 (I love statistics!), and, as always, it got me to thinking about all of the extra special things that we buy to show our pets that we love them, and how many of the necessary things that we tend to put off when our lives get hectic.

So instead of giving you another top ten list on why pets are better than chocolate (though both pets and chocolate are good for your heart), here are some things you can do to show your pets that you love them all year round:

Schedule those annual check ups, vaccinations, and dental cleanings. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve let these important appointments creep past their due dates because of my own overscheduled life.

Take your dog to the groomer. It’s easy to let this slide over the winter when you don’t want to deal with a damp dog and freezing temperatures, but you know your dog needs a bath and trim right about now. If you have a pup that doesn’t care to be touched, extra points for finding a low-stress groomer. 

Sign up for a class. It’s time to start instilling new behaviors (or brushing up on old ones) so that you can be ready for the warmer days, longer walks, and bigger crowds.  

Update your first aid and emergency evacuation kits. Everyone should have fully stocked first aid and evacuation kits. If you have the time, you can also take a pet first aid course.

Learn some relaxation protocols. For noise-sensitive or anxious dogs, spring thunderstorms can be pretty terrifying. Take your pup to a TTouch session, lay in a supply of Rescue Remedy, or – in extreme cases – schedule an appointment with a board-certified veterinary behaviorist.

Start researching pet resort or in-home pet sitting options. If you can find a company or sitter that you trust now, you won’t be scrambling for a reservation when you want to get away for a few days during spring break. 

Re-evaluate your pet’s diet and supplements. A dog’s nutritional needs can change rapidly as he gets older, and it makes sense to evaluate those needs regularly. Replenish the pet supplies, re-read the labels on the food, and make a note to discuss any changes with your vet during the appointment you scheduled after reading item #1, above.

Get those professional photos taken! Ask your friends who they used for their pet photos, or just google “professional pet photographers” and look for the pros in your area. A lot of pet photographers will hold day-long photo shoots on major holidays at local retail stores, so keep an eye out for those opportunities as well.

And, speaking of chocolate:

Bookmark the chocolate toxicity meter and poison control hotline info. Because some of our dogs like to have their own celebrations by getting into what’s left of that giant box of assorted chocolates we mistakenly thought was safe on top of the fridge.

 

 

Pet tech: apps and gear I’m loving right now

dogBy Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

You all know how I love my tech stuff, and it makes me super-happy to see the increasing intersection between the pet industry and technology. Some of the stuff I’m really digging right now are below:

Be prepared for emergencies with this Red Cross Pet First Aid app. It’s like having a vet tech in your pocket. I recommend this to everyone who works with pets for a living. For Android and iOS.

Make sure your pet gets fed (and even medicated) on schedule with an electronic pet feeder. I think this is a much better solution than free-grazing your pets if you’re gone a lot during the day.

No more toilet water! This isn’t high-tech, but if you have a face-licking dog who loves drinking out of that bowl when you’re not looking, or a cat that only drinks from a running faucet, a water fountain is just the thing!

If you want to adopt a pet, check out Woof App. Mark Wade, CEO and Founder, created this fun and elegant app that allows you to search across multiples shelters and rescues, as well as sort by breed, gender, age, size range, and behavior notes. For Android and iOS.

Learn more about the Woof App here. 

If you’re looking to rehome a pet, you can’t go wrong with Pose-a-Pet. Jennifer Whaley, of Fetch Portraits, started this app as a natural extension of her work photographing rescue pets. Pose-a-Pet also helps bring new revenue streams to rescuers through their 50/50 Shelter Share Program. For Android and iOS.

Bonus: listen to my podcast with Jennifer Whaley on Pets Mean Business.

This falls under the category of “I shouldn’t be laughing so hard, but I am”.  I have friends who swear by the Roomba for keeping pet hair and dander to a minimum, but I can’t resist sharing this article about one of the possible pitfalls of automatic vacuuming. Can you say “Poopocalypse”?

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What pet tech are you loving these days?