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Doggie flu prompts some to vaccinate
Some local places that deal with dogs are requiring influenza vaccination

 Eileen Thompson's dog, Boomer, has gotten his flu shots.
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Date published: 2/6/2010


Eileen Thompson's 9-year-old dog, Boomer, is quite the sociable little guy.

A terrier/Chihuahua/Jack Russell mix, he participates in puppy play time, gets groomed regularly, goes into pet stores and is occasionally boarded.

So when Thompson read on the Internet back in September about a canine influenza virus, she contacted her veterinarian right away to see about getting him vaccinated.

"We didn't want to take any chances, especially with something that's preventable," Thompson said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, canine influenza virus is a contagious respiratory disease. It has been seen in horses for more than 40 years.

In 2004, the disease was reported in greyhounds, and there is now a new dog-specific version. It has not been found in humans.

Symptoms can mimic other respiratory illnesses and include cough, runny nose and fever. Some dogs have almost no symptoms, but on rare occasions, the flu can turn into pneumonia and be deadly.

"The majority of dogs have the milder symptoms," said Dr. Sandi Pepper, a veterinarian at White Oak Animal Hospital. "Because this is a new, mutated virus, dogs have no natural immunity to it, so the majority of those exposed will be infected."

The flu can be spread from dog to dog, and from people moving between infected and uninfected dogs.

The American Veterinary Medical Association says the virus can remain alive and able to infect on surfaces for up to 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours and on hands for 12 hours.

Pepper said that's not too different from other viruses, but it's what concerned Thompson the most.

"It's so contagious," she said. "When you're walking your dog, you don't want to pull him away from other dogs, and I didn't want to worry about me bringing it home to him on my clothes or something."

Boomer got the influenza vaccine, which involves an initial shot and then a booster two to four weeks later.

At White Oak, the vaccination costs $18 in addition to the office visit. After the initial two-shot series, the vaccine is given annually.

Boomer tolerated the vaccine well.

"He didn't have a single problem," Thompson said. "I felt very safe in having him vaccinated. I haven't read about any bad reactions."

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