Springbrook_iStock_000052770134_Large (1)Canine influenza, or canine flu, has had many dog owners in the Chicagoland area concerned – and understandably so. While the canine influenza strain, H3N8, has been recognized for some time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that this strain, H3N2, is new to our area and therefore places almost all dogs at risk; in part because there is currently no vaccine available.

Unfortunately, the outbreak coincides with one of the busiest travel seasons. In addition to travel, summer also means visits to parks, natural areas, and the homes of friends and family members for backyard barbeques and other parties. Since canine flu is spread through contact with affected dogs (sneezing, coughing) and contaminated items (including hands and clothing), we want to share our tips for traveling and enjoying the summer with your dog but doing it safely.

Minimizing Exposure to Canine Flu

Many worried dog owners have asked whether it is safe to go anywhere this summer with their four-legged pals. More and more pet owners are asking if they should keep their pets at home this summer, or if there are ways to include their best friend in their travel plans.

The alert in Chicago has been lowered from an epidemic to a concern and pet owners are once again being encouraged to (cautiously) socialize our pets. While there is no way to guarantee your dog won’t be exposed to the virus, there are methods to better protect your four-legged friend from exposure without staying shut in at home.

Minimize contact with other dogs – Rather than avoid dog-oriented places (pet supply stores, groomers, dog daycares, kennels, dog parks) completely, use good judgment to minimize contact with dogs that appear to be in poor health and take along your own water dish or toys.

On the road, consider finding a quiet, less-busy place to take bathroom breaks, and avoid the well-trod grass around public rest areas where other dogs will be. If you interact with another dog, thoroughly wash your hands before returning to your dog. If possible, choose travel destinations where fewer pets will be congregated (a campsite versus a campground for example).

Arrange for safe accommodations – Large boarding facilities can create the ideal setting for a virus to spread quickly, so choose a veterinary boarding facility where they screen boarders and doctors set requirements for safety. At Springbrook Animal Care Center’s Pet Paradise Boarding, we offer the highest level of safety with preventive protocols that inhibit the spread of disease, while offering your pet a wonderful, fun, and comfortable pet vacation experience. If you’re still concerned, ask a friend or family member to care for your dog while you travel.

Keep tabs on the outbreak – Stay up-to-date on what’s happening with the spread of the virus in the Chicago area, as well as your travel destination. If you hear of an outbreak, consider avoiding that area or avoiding contact with other dogs while there. Just in case, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on the signs of canine flu so that your recognize symptoms in your pet including:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Fever

If you suspect your pet has contracted the flu, have him or her seen by a veterinarian right away and limit his exposure to other pets.

Ensure your dog’s health – We encourage you to have your dog’s health examined before hitting the road and to have them vaccinated to protect against contracting the flu. A healthy dog, with an optimal diet and daily exercise, will likely have a stronger immune system and will be better equipped for the stress of travel (and resisting the flu virus).

If the Pet Experts at Springbrook Animal Care Center can assist you with your pet’s travel requirements, answer questions about the canine flu virus, or provide you with a tour of our boarding facilities, let us know – we welcome your inquiry.

Safe and happy travels!