Frequently Asked Questions

Canine Influenza Outbreak

As of December, 2015, a vaccine has been produced and marketed to protect against the H3N2 virus.  We are recommending its use for dogs who are in highly trafficked situations, such as day care, boarding in places that provide day care, and dog parks.  Dogs who have previously been vaccinated with the original H3N8 vaccine are not protected against H3N2.  The H3N2 is still rumbling around the Midwest, and we have concerns for increased outdoor activity/exposures with the arrival of Spring 2016.  Currently, we recommend vaccination against both strains of Influenza virus, with a 4 week lead-time, as mentioned in other sections, if patients will be in high-exposure situations.  Continue to beware!!

As of June 1, 2015, we have learned a lot more about this viral problem.  At the beginning of this epidemic, April 1st of this year, it was thought to be due to Canine Influenza virus, type H3N8, for which we have been able to vaccinate for the past six years.  Around mid-April, it was discovered that the offending virus was a different type, H3N2.  It was known to be in Korea and China, but this was the first finding in the United States.  One big question was, would the existing vaccine protect against the new strain?  It appears that it did not.  Three of our patients who had been well vaccinated for H3N8 did come down with the new strain, and show significant illness.  Fortunately, all three were able to be cared for at home, and all three recovered.  These three cases shed light on the Influenza problem by showing that they initially had protective antibody levels for H3N8, and that, after recovery, they had really been infected with the H3N2 virus, not the H3N8 first supposed.  That H3N2 infection also caused their antibody levels for H3N8 to increase six-fold.  Cornell University researchers are still trying to understand that phenomenon, but our thought is that the viruses were similar enough that they caused the immune response, and if they are tied together that way, we wonder if without the vaccination protection, these individuals would have been more severely affected than they were. 

As of April 1, 2015, we are dealing with an outbreak of potentially fatal respiratory disease due to Canine Influenza virus.  To minimize impact in our practice environment, and to keep our patients as safe as possible, we are categorizing our patients into three groups, those with symptoms, those with potential exposure within the previous 7 days (boarding, grooming, obedience classes, dog day care, dog park attendance, or other social events), and those with neither exposure opportunity or symptoms.  Our facility layout lends itself to separating these three groups better than most practices in the area.

With this outbreak, we now HAVE TO SUGGEST, MUCH MORE STRONGLY, that all dogs entering such social venues become vaccinated against this virus.  Previously, as suggested in our "Lifestyle Vaccine" section, it was one to consider, now that obviously needs to be upgraded.  The difficulty for most will be that vaccination is a two-step process achieved over a four week time period.  During that entire time, social events should be avoided "like the plague".  Vaccination can be initiated after an exam reveals normal health, then a booster can be given in three weeks, and as full a protection as vaccination can provide will be seen in another week.

Signs of this disease can be simply upper respiratory in nature, i.e. sneezing, eye discharge, coughing, or any combination of the three.  With this disease, virus shedding occurs within the first seven days after exposure, often before any symptoms are seen!  This makes the disease especially difficult to keep from spreading, and spread it does by aerosolized droplets, direct contact, and even indirect contact through exposure to contaminated environments or people who have come in contact with an infected individual. 

10-20 % of infected patients will develop LOWER respiratory signs which include coughing, but also difficulty breathing (shortness of breath), loss of appetite, and  activity, and often a fever.  Many of these patients may die, so early detection will be important.  Actual diagnosis currently takes 3-5 days to verify, but treatments will be based upon the presenting signs and complaints..

What is a Wellness Exam?

Wellness Exams, or Preventive Care Exams, are recommended on an annual basis for all pets or a semi-annual basis for senior pets (generally pets older than 10 years). We perform such an examination when we are updating needed vaccinations.    such During the Preventive Care exams, the doctor will thoroughly examine your pet to look for any changes or abnormalities.

Why are Preventive Care Exams important?

Pets age about 4 times as fast as humans, so annual exams are especially important for them.   Many body changes or diseases can be found on a thorough physical exam prior to the onset of symptoms.   Such a discovery means that one can begin treatment or properly monitor these issues. This earlier knowledge usually results in a much more favorable outcome in the case of a specific problem such as cancer, or dental disease, and a longer and better life for the pet.  Wellness exams also give the doctor a baseline of health to compare to future health concerns.

What are our vaccination recommendations?

Vaccinations have always been advised annually, but there is an increasing amount of evidence from independent "duration of immunity" studies which indicates that vaccination protection may be more or less than one year depending on the age and vaccine "experience" of the pet.  For example, pets over one year of age may qualify for certain "three year" vaccines.   With evidence also growing that some vaccinations may have caused problems for the body, we have decided to advise you that once your pet is mature, his or her vaccinations be extended to three year intervals where possible or practical. We will continue to provide a one-year Rabies vaccines for puppies and kittens and some older pets.  This advice applies especially to what we call the core vaccines.

What are core vaccines?

Core vaccines are those we believe every pet should have, regardless of their lifestyle.  Rabies for dogs and cats, Distemper/Hepatitis/Parvo/Parainfluenza for dogs, and Distemper/Upper Respiratory for cats are all core vaccines that only need to be given every three years.  The remaining core vaccine for dogs, Leptospirosis, is an annual vaccine but will be included in your dog's DHPP (above) every third year.

What are non-core vaccines?

Non-core, or "lifestyle", vaccines are vaccines that should only be used on a case-by-case basis.  Perhaps the best example of such vaccinations would be Bordetella, an upper respiratory bacterial disease.  This protection is best used when a pet frequents grooming facilities, boarding facilities, Day-care programs, dog-training classes, dog parks, and commercial establishments that welcome pet traffic.

Vaccination against Lyme Disease is recommended for those dogs who travel to deer tick infested areas in Wisconsin, Michigan, and other locations where high tick exposure is expected.  Another respiratory concern would be Canine Influenza, a highly, and potentially fatal, lower respiratory disease, again considered when social exposure is part of a dog's lifestyle. 

What are heartworms?

Heartworms are blood borne parasites transmitted by mosquitoes.  While the primary host is the dog, the cat can be affected also.  Other effected species are coyotes, foxes, and even people.  These slender worms may be 8-12 inches in length and reside in the right chambers of the heart and major blood vessels in the lungs, restricting blood flow and possibly causing heart failure.  Adult worms produce “living offspring” (microscopic larva) that circulate in the blood ready for the mosquito to feed upon and transfer to another pet.

What are the symptoms of heartworm disease?

The “classical” symptoms of heartworm disease can include mild persistent cough, poor exercise tolerance, decreased appetite, weight loss, and even sudden death.  In its early stages, heartworms are a “silent” disease with vague symptoms.  Sudden death can occur, especially in cats.

How is heartworm disease diagnosed?

Simple, rapid blood tests can detect the presence of adult worms and/or circulating microfilaria (larvae).  Additional diagnostic tools may include chest x-rays and ultrasound.

Can heartworm disease be treated?

In dogs, heartworm disease can usually be treated successfully, especially if diagnosed early.  Treatment occurs in two steps; the first targeting adult worms and the second to rid the pet of circulating microfilaria (larvae).  To reduce the risk of treatment complications, x-rays and other blood tests are recommended as well as strict confinement at home for several weeks, as the dying worms begin to deteriorate within the circulatory system.

How can you protect your pet against heartworm disease?

After appropriate annual testing to ensure your pet is heartworm disease free, there are a variety of medications which we can provide to kill developing larvae and prevent a heartworm infestation.  Our first choice is a monthly oral (chewable) tablet that guard against heartworm, as well as protect against certain intestinal parasites and fleas.  There is also topically applied products we may recommend depending on your pet’s risk factors.

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by deer ticks.  Although most prevalent in certain Midwest and eastern states, its geographic distribution involves all of the United States and Canada. Dogs are more susceptible to this disease than humans, it is said, and affects the joints and even the kidneys.  Vaccination is available to protect against this disease, as are topical and oral tick-killing products.