Dog Health

Dog Flu

Something everyone should be aware of

New York Times

September 22, 2005

A New Deadly, Contagious Dog Flu Virus Is Detected in 7 States

By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr. and CARIN RUBENSTEIN

 

A new, highly contagious and sometimes deadly canine flu is spreading in kennels and at dog tracks around the country, veterinarians said yesterday.

The virus, which scientists say mutated from an influenza strain that affects horses, has killed racing greyhounds in seven states and has been found in shelters and pet shops in many places, including the New York suburbs, though the extent of its spread is unknown.

Dr. Cynda Crawford, an immunologist at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine who is studying the virus, said that it spread most easily where dogs were housed together but that it could also be passed on the street, in dog runs or even by a human transferring it from one dog to another. Kennel workers have carried the virus home with them, she said.

How many dogs die from the virus is unclear, but scientists said the fatality rate is more than 1 percent and could be as high as 10 percent among puppies and older dogs.

Dr. Crawford first began investigating greyhound deaths in January 2004 at a racetrack in Jacksonville, Fla., where 8 of the 24 greyhounds who contracted the virus died.

“This is a newly emerging pathogen,” she said, “and we have very little information to make predictions about it. But I think the fatality rate is between 1 and 10 percent.

“She added that because dogs had no natural immunity to the virus, virtually every animal exposed would be infected. About 80 percent of dogs that are infected with the virus will develop symptoms, Dr. Crawford said. She added that the symptoms were often mistaken for “kennel cough,” a common canine illness that is caused by the bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria.

Both diseases can cause coughing and gagging for up to three weeks, but dogs with canine flu may spike fevers as high as 106 degrees and have runny noses. A few will develop pneumonia, and some of those cases will be fatal. Antibiotics and fluid cut the pneumonia fatality rate, Dr. Crawford said.

The virus is an H3N8 flu closely related to an equine flu strain. It is not related to typical human flus or to the H5N1 avian flu that has killed about 100 people in Asia.

Experts said there were no known cases of the canine flu infecting humans. “The risk of that is low, but we are keeping an eye on it,” said Dr. Ruben Donis, chief of molecular genetics for the influenza branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is tracking the illness.

But with the approach of the human flu season and fears about bird flu in Asia, there is much confusion among some dog owners who have heard about the disease.

Dr. Crawford said she was fielding calls from kennels and veterinarians across the country worried that they were having outbreaks.

“The hysteria out there is unbelievable, and the misinformation is incredible,” said Dr. Ann E. Hohenhaus, chief of medicine at the Animal Medical Center in New York.

Dr. Hohenhaus said she had heard of an alert from a Virginia dog club reporting rumors that 10,000 show dogs had died.

“We don’t believe that’s true,” she said, adding that no dogs in her Manhattan hospital even had coughs.

Dr. Donis of the disease control centers said that there was currently no vaccine for the canine flu. But he said one would be relatively easy to develop. The canine flu is less lethal than parvovirus, which typically kills puppies but can be prevented by routine vaccination.

Laboratory tests, Dr. Donis said, have shown that the new flu is susceptible to the two most common antiviral drugs, amantidine and Tamiflu, but those drugs are not licensed for use in dogs.

The flu has killed greyhounds at tracks in Florida, Massachusetts, Arizona, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Texas and Iowa. Tracks and kennels have been forced to shut down for weeks for disinfection.

In Chestnut Ridge, north of New York City, about 88 dogs became sick by early September, and 15 percent of those required hospitalization, said Debra Bennetts, a spokeswoman for Best Friends Pet Care, a chain of boarding kennels. The kennel was vacated for decontamination by Sept. 17.

About 17 of the infected dogs were treated at the Oradell Animal Hospital in Paramus, N.J., where one died and two more were still hospitalized, a staff veterinarian said.

The Best Friends chain owns 41 other kennels in 18 states, and no others have had an outbreak, Dr. Larry J. Nieman, the company’s veterinarian, said.

In late July, at Gracelane Kennels in Ossining, N.Y., about 35 dogs showed symptoms, said the owner, Bob Gatti, and he closed the kennel for three weeks to disinfect.

About 25 of the dogs were treated by an Ossining veterinarian, Glenn M. Zeitz, who said two of them had died.

“The dogs came in very sick, with high fevers and very high white blood cell counts,” Dr. Zeitz said, making him suspicious that they had something worse than kennel cough.

A spokesman for the New York City Health Department said that there were “a few confirmed cases” in New York but that the city was not yet tracking the disease.

Veterinarians voluntarily sent samples to the Animal Health Diagnostic Center at the Cornell School of Veterinary Medicine, which was the only laboratory doing blood tests.

Dog Glardia

GUARDING AGAINST GIARDIA

By Maggie Fisher BVetMed MRCVS

Early in 1995, the kennel population of more than 100 dogs at the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association’s Midlands Regional Center in Leamington Spa was hit by an unusually severe outbreak of diarrhea. The cause turned out to be an infection of the intestine by a commonly-occurring, single celled organism – or protozan known as Giardia. A combined treatment and disinfection strategy was then introduced that brought the infection under control. Maggie Fisher, a veterinary surgeon with a special interest in parasitology, was called in to help deal with the Giardia outbreak, and in the following paper she describes the infection and how it can be treated and controlled.

The division of Giardia into groups according to species is still somewhat confused; the organisms that infect mammals look very similar but it remains unclear to what extent they form one or a number of species. It is for this reason that, while Giardia infection in some mammals, including dogs, is suspected of being infectious to man (ie: a zoonosis), it has not been conclusively shown that the species in, for example, dogs and man is the same.

The Giardia trophozoite – which is the active stage of the organism – inhabits the small intestine of the dog. It attaches to the cells of the intestine with its adhesive disc and rapidly divides to produce a whole population of trophozoites. As they detach they may be swept down the intestine. If intestinal flow is fast then they may appear in the feces. However, if they have time, they will develop into the inactive, more durable, cyst form of the organism and these will be passed in the feces. The cyst is more able to survive in the environment than the trophozoite, which is very fragile.

How do Giardia cause disease in dogs?

Like all infectious agents, in order to cause disease Giardia depends on being able to overcome the dog’s defense against infection, either by its virulence or by the number of the organisms becoming established. It has been observed that as few as 10 cysts can cause disease in humans. Different animals may respond to infection in different ways, which may be due to different strains of the same Giardia population, with varying levels of pathogenicity. Another explanation for observed differences in the host response to infection is that protective immunity with age and/or exposure. This may be temporarily lost if the animal is stressed or immunosuppressed, for example with corticosteroid treatment.

What is the source of infection for dogs?

The original source of an outbreak may be cysts in contaminated water or the environment. In addition, infected dogs which may be either carriers (ie: show no clinical signs but continue to harbor infection and pass cysts into the environment) or dogs that have diarrhea associated with infection may act as the source. Surveys have shown that about 14% of the adult dog population and over 30% of dogs under one year of age were infected. Once passed, the cysts can survive in cold water for several months.

The cysts are infective as soon as they are passed, unlike other parasites where a lag period is necessary before the organism is infective. The most common route of infection is feco-oral. For example, dogs may accidentally eat cysts as they lick around the environment or lick other dogs’ coats (particularly if the other dog has diarrhea). Another major source of infection in human cases is drinking contaminated water. Once eaten, the cyst breaks open in the animals’ intestine and releases two new trophozoites to initiate infection. If a dog is left in a dirty environment it may act as its own source of further infections it eats cysts passed in its own feces.

What are the clinical signs associated with infection?

The trophozoites divide to produce a large population, then they begin to interfere with the absorption of food, so feces from affected animals are typically light colored, greasy and soft. These signs, together with the beginning of cyst shedding, begin about one week post-infection. There may be additional signs of large intestinal irritation, such as straining and mucus in the feces, even though the Giardia do not colonize the large intestine. Usually the blood picture of affected animals is normal, though occasionally there is a slight increase in the number of eosinophils (one of several types of white blood cells) and mild anemia. Without treatment, the condition may continue, either chronically or intermittently, for weeks or months.

How can infection be diagnosed?

Diagnosis is based on demonstration of the infection and the elimination of other possible causes of diarrhea (eg: Salmonella or Campylobacter), Giardia cysts may be observed directly in fecal samples or indirectly using an elisa technique. Direct examination of feces, using zinc sulphate centrifugal flotation. followed by staining the supernatant with Lugol’s iodine, has been found to be up to 70% effective at detecting infection from a single fecal sample. The cyst output is very variable from day to day so the detection rate may be improved by pooling fecal samples collected over three days. Fecal examination is the cheapest method but is time consuming and requires an experienced technician for reliable results.

The elisa technique requires a kit and some method of reading a color change or production of florescence. Studies examining the reliability of some immunoflorescent kits have found them to be over 90% accurate, with relatively few false negatives or false positives. However, the tests are costly and probably only worthwhile where there are a large number of samples to be processed and a technician who is familiar with carrying out elisas.

How can infection be treated?

Infection may be treated using one of a number of drugs. Unfortunately there is no treatment licensed for the control of giardias in dogs, though fenbendazole (Panacur, Hoechst Animal Health) is licensed for treatment of worms in dogs. Whatever treatment is chosen, it is very unlikely to eliminate 100% of the infection in all dogs. Adaptations that may be made to try to improve the success rate of a treatment regime include extending the duration and dose of the treatment.

Care must obviously be taken with this approach to make sure that an adequate safety margin is always maintained. Another approach is to retreat after an interval of one week. Alternatively, repeat fecal samples may be collected one week after the treatment and dogs which are still passing cysts can be identified and treated. It should be recognized that, when treating a large number of dogs, whichever of these treatment strategies is adopted, there maybe one or two dogs that remain as carriers of infection that will act as a potential sources of infection in future.

How can infection, once present , be controlled?

Once infection is present in a kennels, control may be approached in two ways:-

1. identification, isolation and treatment of infected dogs.

2. mass treatment of all dogs.

Option 1 is only practical where a few dogs in a discrete area have been identified as being infected and where complete isolation is feasible, either within their own block or in a specific isolation block. Such isolation includes segregation of exercise areas and these animals should be fed and cleaned after all others on the premises, preferably using separate cleaning and feeding equipment and separate staff if possible. Treatment of all dogs should commence on the same day when option 2 is adopted.

Thorough cleaning of all kennel area where infected dogs have access is essential. Once organic debris has been removed, thorough disinfection will help to further reduce the level of environmental contamination and reduce the risk of dogs becoming re-infected after the completion of treatment. Disinfectants containing quaternary ammonium compounds have been found to kill Giardia cysts at the manufacturers’ recommended dilutions (dilutions of one disinfectant up to 1:704 were found to be effective at both low and high environmental temperatures). Efficacy of killing is increased by prolonged contact time, therefore disinfectant solution should be left for 20 minutes to half an hour before being rinsed off kennel or run surfaces. Since disinfection of grass runs is impossible, such area should be regarded as contaminated for at least a month after infected dogs last had access.

Introduction of new dogs into the infected area should be avoided until the period of treatment and fecal sample checking has been completed. It should not be overlooked that some of the infected dogs may continue to excrete low numbers of cysts even after all treatments and examinations have been completed. It is therefore important that rigorous disinfection is maintained and a careful check is kept on the condition of all treated and introduced animals.

How can infection be prevented?

It is very difficult to prevent entry of an infection that is known to be carried by a percentage of normal dogs into a kennels. However, an initial period of isolation for all new entrants into kennels, for perhaps ten days, would reduce the risk of an infected dog spreading a large number of cysts around the main kennel area. All dogs could be observed and any infection present, which in the case of Giardia might be exacerbated by the stream of entry in kennels, could be identified and treated before entry into the main kennels.

Dogs should be prevented from access to foul water that may contain large numbers of cysts (eg: river-flooded paddocks).Small numbers of cysts may occasionally be present in the potable water supply but the risk of this being a major source of infection is small.

Dog Bloat

A Twisted Stomach is a Life-Threatening Problem

By Kim Marie Labak

Behaviors or conditions that promote aerophagia, or swallowing of air, such as exercising a dog immediately after eating or drinking a large amount of food or water may increase its risk for a life threatening condition known as gastric dilatation and volvulus or GDV, sometimes referred to as a twisted stomach or bloat.

According to Dr. Kathleen Ham, veterinary surgery resident at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana, large breed dogs with deep-chested bodies such as Great Danes, Rottweilers, and golden retrievers may have extra room in their abdomen for the stomach to move around. Sometimes the stomach may expand, or dilate, with gas or fluid and rotate in the abdomen. This may also happen, rarely, in small breed dogs.

There are many factors that may predispose an animal to GDV, one of which is genetics. “Family history of the condition is the most important factor to consider–dogs at risk to develop GDV often have a primary relative (a parent, sibling, or offspring) that’s had GDV.”

Any activity that promotes aerophagia may predispose an animal to GDV, and other risk factors include old age, an underweight condition, and stress.

Veterinarians are not sure which comes first: the rotation or the expansion of the stomach, but once the stomach is rotated, it will continue to expand. This expansion of the stomach can threaten an animal’s life. Dr. Ham explains, “Rotation blocks the ability for anything to exit the stomach through the esophagus or into the intestinal tract. Because nothing can get out, the stomach continues to get larger and can compress very important things in the belly.”

If the expanding stomach compresses the nearby major blood vessels, blood cannot return to the heart, leading to an immediately life threatening condition. “In addition, a big giant stomach can compress the chest making it difficult to breathe,” notes Dr. Ham. GDV can be fatal within a few hours, especially if shock, or failure of blood and oxygen to flow to the body, sets in or if the stomach ruptures and bacteria leak into the abdomen or bloodstream.

Signs of GDV include retching, excessive drooling, lethargy, and an abnormally enlarged belly. If you suspect your pet may have GDV, you should immediately call a veterinarian.

The first thing a veterinarian will do for an animal with GDV is to stabilize it by treating it for shock and decompress the stomach. A needle passed trough the abdominal wall into the stomach and a plastic tube passed through the esophagus into the stomach can help allow built-up air and fluid to escape, relieving pressure on affected blood vessels.

The next step is surgery to untwist the stomach and remove any stomach tissue that may be damaged from the ordeal. During surgery a veterinarian will also check the nearby spleen and other organs for injuries as well look for an underlying cause.

The stomach is then sutured to the inside of the abdominal wall to prevent recurrence of twisting, or volvulus. The body will form scar tissue that will hold the stomach in place. This procedure, called gastropexy, won’t prevent the dilation, or the expansion of the stomach, but is 95 percent effective in preventing volvulus. Fortunately, dilation without volvulus is a less threatening condition that can be treated with medication.

According to Dr. Ham, dogs that get GDV should be spayed or neutered so they cannot pass on the trait. Knowing the health history of you dog’s relatives may give you a heads-up to be vigilant for signs of GDV.

If you get a female puppy and you know there is a history of GDV in her family, Dr. Ham says a veterinarian can perform a prophylactic gastropexy while doing a spay, since both procedures take place in the abdominal cavity. “For dogs that are predisposed, it makes sense to do this when we already have the animal under anesthesia and have the abdomen open. This only adds about twenty minutes to a spay procedure, doesn’t add much expense and doesn’t cause the animal any extra pain.”

There is no way to prevent GDV, but knowledge of the disease and clinical signs allow early recognition. With prompt diagnosis and treatment the prognosis can be good.

For more information about gastric dilatation and volvulus or gastropexy procedures, consult your veterinarian.

An archive of Pet Columns from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine is available online at www.cvm.uiuc.edu/petcolumns/. Veterinary Extension/Office of Public Engagement University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine 217/333-2907.

This news release is a service of the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. Releases on other topics can be found on the ACES News Web site http://www.aces.uiuc.edu/news

Other Sites

Disaster and Your Pet’s

By Kim Marie Labak

An archive of Pet Columns from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine is available online at www.cvm.uiuc.edu/petcolumns/ .

Storms, floods, fires, disease outbreaks and terrorist attacks are frightening realities that people all over the world face today, and when disaster strikes, people are often unprepared to care for themselves, let alone their animals. Having an emergency disaster plan can benefit everyone in the family, including the family pets.

Allison Fedash, a fourth-year veterinary student at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and volunteer for the animal rescue group Noah’s Wish, explains that there’s never a better time to prepare for a disaster than now.

“The problem is, people don’t plan, and why should they if they don’t think anything bad is going to happen?”

As a volunteer for Noah’s Wish, Fedash has helped rescue animals from flood, storm and fire-wrought areas. Noah’s Wish, which is over 2000 volunteers strong, works with organizations such as the Red Cross to help locate and rescue pets and farm animals. Noah’s Wish sent volunteers to the sites of the south Asian tsunami, the World Trade Center disaster and hurricane Katrina.

Fedash explains that a disaster plan for animals is very much like that for the human members for the family. “Have an evacuation plan, have an emergency kit ready, and have your paperwork in order.”

An evacuation plan may be as simple as making sure you have adequate transportation for everyone in the family, including your animals. This can be especially challenging for owners of large animals such as horses. “For horses or other big animals, have a trailer–even if you think you’ll never use it, it’s a good idea to purchase a second-hand trailer.”

“I also keep my tack on a hook right outside each of my horses’ stalls so it’s always easy to find.” Plan with your neighbors in case you aren’t home during a disaster, and inform family and friends of your plan.

The most important part of evacuating is doing it. “When the authorities tell you to evacuate, evacuate. Bring your pets with you if you can, and if you have the chance, leave a note on the door stating that all animals and people have been evacuated from the house.”

An emergency supply kit for animals would include many of the same things as that for a person: three days worth of food and water in airtight containers, a can opener, food and water bowls, and medications (including heartworm and flea preventives). A kit for animals would also contain some from of confinement such as a travel crate or collapsible kennel, leashes, collars or halters, and sanitary supplies such as plastic poop bags for dogs, litter pans and newspaper for cats and paper for birds.

Emergency food and water supplies, for either animals or humans, should be rotated every three months (more often for perishable products such as hay) to make sure the supply is fresh.

Having paperwork together and up-to-date can save a lot of headaches and red tape when a disaster strikes. “Make sure your animals are current on their vaccinations and tests, and have their current veterinary records handy. Many shelters and kennels won’t take cats and dogs without current rabies vaccinations, and if you need to take your horse across state lines, you’ll need a current Coggins test.”

Keep veterinary records in a waterproof container along with photographs of your animals for identification purposes. You also may want to have pre-printed “lost” flyers with a photo and description of your animal. Also keep a list of phone numbers of emergency organizations.

Identification is key for any animal. Tags and tattoos may work for some animals, but owners may want to consider microchipping, since it is a permanent form of identification and works for several species, from birds to Guinea pigs to horses.

Fedash reflects on how pets can be a true comfort when a disaster strikes. “At Noah’s Wish, we’ve had people come to us and say ‘I lost my home, my job and I have no money, no place to work–but I have my cat, and that’s all I care about right now.’ During these times, that pet can mean so much.”

For more information on vaccinations, tests, and microchipping for your pet, consult your veterinarian. For more information on disaster planning for your pet, or for information on becoming a Noah’s Wish volunteer, visit www.noahswish.org/.

Veterinary Extension/Office of Public Engagement

University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine

217/333-2907

Source: Allison Fedash

Pet First Aid

First Aid Kit- Basic Supplies: Gauze pads, gauze roll/ bandages, roll of cloth, thermometer, tweezers, hydrogen peroxide, antibiotic ointment, Q-tips, instant cold pack, rags/ rubber tubing for tourniquet, First Aid book

Handling an Injured Animal: Any animal injured or in pain can bite or scratch you. Even the friendliest of pets must be handled with care for the safety, of all involved. If you are accidentally bitten or scratched, seek medical attention. Both dog and cat bites can become infected quickly!

CATS AND DOGS:

Vital Statistics: Pulse and Heart Rate: Normal resting rates: Cats: 150-200 bpm, Small dogs: 90-120 bpm, Medium dogs: 70-110 bpm, Large dogs: 60-90 bpm, Pulse should be strong, regular and easy to locate.

Checking the pulse: The easiest place to locate a pulse is the femoral artery in the groin area. Place your fingers on the inside of the hind leg and slide your hand upward until the back of your fingers touches the abdomen. Gently move your fingers back and forth on the inside of the hind leg until you feel the pulsing blood. Count the number of pulses in 15 seconds and multiply that number by 4. This will give you the beats per minute (bpm).

Temperature: Normal temp. for dogs and cats: 100-102.5 degrees, Thermometer should be almost clean when removed. Abnormalities are indicated by blood, diarrhea, or black, tarry stool.

Basic First Aid Procedures: All of the following situations require immediate veterinary care.

Fractures: Muzzle animal. Gently lay animal on a board, wooden door, tarp, etc. padded with blankets. Secure animal to the support. Do not attempt to set the fracture. If a limb is broken, wrap the leg in cotton padding, then wrap with a magazine, rolled newspaper, towel or two sticks. Splint should extend one joint above the fracture and one joint below. Secure with tape. Make sure wrap does not constrict blood flow. If the spine, ribs, hip, etc. appears injured or broken, gently place the animal on the stretcher and immobilize it if possible.

1.        Bleeding (external) Muzzle animal. Press thick gauze pad over wound. Hold firmly until clotting occurs. If bleeding is severe, apply a tourniquet between the wound and the heart. Loosen tourniquet for 20 seconds every 15-20 minutes. A tourniquet is dangerous and should only be used in life-threatening hemorrhaging of a limb. It may result in amputation or disability of the limb.

2.        Bleeding (internal) Symptoms: bleeding from nose, mouth, rectum; coughing blood; blood in urine; pale gums; collapse; rapid or weak pulse. Keep animal as warm and quiet as possible.

3.        Burns Chemical Muzzle animal. Flush immediately with large quantities of cold water.

·         Severe Muzzle animal. Quickly apply ice water compresses. Treat for shock if necessary.

4.        Shock Symptoms: weak pulse; shallow breathing; nervousness; dazed appearance. Often accompanies severe injury or extreme fright. Keep animal restrained, quiet and warm. If unconscious, keep head level with rest of body.

Restraint Methods: If your animal is injured, you must restrain him/her for your safety as well as your pet’s. Muzzle your pet to restrain it unless it is unconscious, has difficulty breathing or has a mouth injury.

Dogs—Muzzles: Speak and move calmly and quietly. Have someone restrain the dog with a leash. Approach dog from the side and behind its head; do not attempt to put muzzle on from the front. Quickly slip a nylon or wire cage muzzle over nose, secure snugly behind ears.

If a muzzle is not available, you can make one from a strip of gauze, rag, necktie, belt or rope about 3 feet long. Make a large loop in the center. Quickly slip loop over dog’s nose. Bring ends under chin. Tie snugly behind ears.

Cats—Muzzles: Speak and move calmly and quietly.

Have someone restrain the cat by holding the scruff of its neck firmly. This does not hurt the cat; it just prevents him/her from moving. Working from behind the cat, quickly slip a nylon muzzle over the cat’s face. The muzzle will cover most of his/her face, including the eyes. Secure snugly behind head. If you are alone, scruff the cat with one hand and put the muzzle over the cat’s face with the other. Slide both hands along muzzle straps and secure behind the head. If a muzzle is not available, one can be made with a rag or a strip of gauze. Make sure that it is carefully placed around the cat’s mouth and securely fastened, as cats can escape from these temporary muzzles.

Cats–Body Restraint: Most cats can be restrained by holding the scruff of the neck. The “Cat Sack” can be used for fractious or very frightened cats. Slip sack over cat from tail to head, zip up appropriate zippers. Wrap cat in a towel, making, sure his/her front legs are covered and against the body. Gloves are not recommended for handling cats. They reduce the handler’s dexterity and can easily be penetrated by a cat’s teeth.

This material produced by the Palo Alto Humane Society in conjunction with the American Red Cross Northern California Disaster Preparedness Network and the Independent Living Resource Center, San Francisco, CA in cooperation with June Kailes, Disability Consultant through a grant from The American Red Cross Northern California Disaster Preparedness Network

 

The following information has been prepared by the http://www.hsus.org in cooperation with the American Red Cross

 

Our pets enrich our lives in more ways than we can count. In turn, they depend on us for their safety and well-being. Here’s how you can be prepared to protect your pets when disaster strikes.

Be Prepared with a Disaster Plan: The best way to protect your family from the effects of a disaster is to have a disaster plan. If you are a pet owner, that plan must include your pets. Being prepared can save their lives.

Different disasters require different responses. But whether the disaster is a hurricane or a hazardous spill, you may have to evacuate your home.

In the event of a disaster, if you must evacuate, the most important thing you can do to protect your pets is to evacuate them, too. Leaving pets behind, even if you try to create a safe place for them, is likely to result in their being injured, lost, or worse. So prepare now for the day when you and your pets may have to leave your home.

  1. Have a Safe Place To Take Your Pets: Red Cross disaster shelters cannot accept pets because of states’ health and safety regulations and other considerations. Service animals who assist people with disabilities are the only animals allowed in Red Cross shelters. It may be difficult, if not impossible, to find shelter for your animals in the midst of a disaster, so plan ahead. Do not wait until disaster strikes to do your research.
    • Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area to check policies on accepting pets and restrictions on number, size, and species. Ask if “no pet” policies could be waived in an emergency. Keep a list of “pet friendly” places, including phone numbers, with other disaster information and supplies. If you have notice of an impending disaster, call ahead for reservations.
    • Ask friends, relatives, or others outside the affected area whether they could shelter your animals. If you have more than one pet, they may be more comfortable if kept together, but be prepared to house them separately.
    • Prepare a list of boarding facilities and veterinarians who could shelter animals in an emergency; include 24-hour phone numbers.
    • Ask local animal shelters if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets in a disaster. Animal shelters may be overburdened caring for the animals they already have as well as those displaced by a disaster, so this should be your last resort.
  2. Assemble a Portable Pet Disaster Supplies Kit: Whether you are away from home for a day or a week, you’ll need essential supplies. Keep items in an accessible place and store them in sturdy containers that can be carried easily (duffle bags, covered trash containers, etc.). Your pet disaster supplies kit should include:
    • Medications and medical records (stored in a waterproof container) and a first aid kit.
    • Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure that your animals can’t escape.
    • Current photos of your pets in case they get lost.
    • Food, potable water, bowls, cat litter/pan, and can opener.
    • Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board your pets.
    • Pet beds and toys, if easily transportable.
  3. Know What To Do As a Disaster Approaches:
  • Often, warnings are issued hours, even days, in advance. At the first hint of disaster, act to protect your pet.
  • Call ahead to confirm emergency shelter arrangements for you and your pets.
  • Check to be sure your pet disaster supplies are ready to take at a moment’s notice.
  •  Bring all pets into the house so that you won’t have to search for them if you have to leave in a hurry.
  •  Make sure all dogs and cats are wearing collars and securely fastened, up-to-date identification. Attach the phone number and address of your temporary shelter, if you know it, or of a friend or relative outside the disaster area. You can buy temporary tags or put adhesive tape on the back of your pet’s ID tag, adding information with an indelible pen.

You may not be home when the evacuation order comes. Find out if a trusted neighbor would be willing to take your pets and meet you at a prearranged location. This person should be comfortable with your pets, know where your animals are likely to be, know where your pet disaster supplies kit is kept, and have a key to your home. If you use a petsitting service, they may be available to help, but discuss the possibility well in advance.

Planning and preparation will enable you to evacuate with your pets quickly and safely. But bear in mind that animals react differently under stress. Outside your home and in the car, keep dogs securely leashed. Transport cats in carriers. Don’t leave animals unattended anywhere they can run off. The most trustworthy pets may panic, hide, try to escape, or even bite or scratch. And, when you return home, give your pets time to settle back into their routines. Consult your veterinarian if any behavior problems persist.

Caring for Birds in an Emergency Birds should be transported in a secure travel cage or carrier. In cold weather, wrap a blanket over the carrier and warm up the car before placing birds inside. During warm weather, carry a plant mister to mist the birds’ feathers periodically. Do not put water inside the carrier during transport. Provide a few slices of fresh fruits and vegetables with high water content. Have a photo for identification and leg bands. If the carrier does not have a perch, line it with paper towels and change them frequently. Try to keep the carrier in a quiet area. Do not let the birds out of the cage or carrier.

A Final Word If you must evacuate, do not leave your animals behind. Evacuate them to a prearranged safe location if they cannot stay with your during the evacuation period. (remember, pets are not allowed in Red Cross shelters.) If there is a possibility that disaster may strike while you are out of the house, there are precautions you can take to increase your pets’ chances of survival, but they are not a substitute for evacuating with your pets. For more information, contact The Humane Society of the United States, Disaster Services, 2100 L Street NW, Washington, DC 20037.

In a statement of understanding, The American Red Cross recognizes The Humane Society of the United States as the nation’s largest animal protection organization responsible for the safety and well-being of animals, including disaster relief. The American Red Cross is committed to transforming the caring and concern of the American people into immediate action.

More information about pets from The Humane Society of the United States.

More information about pets from The American Veterinary Medical Association

Hot Weather Care

By Brooke Nitzkin,

University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine

As many of us know, summer can be the best time of year for our pets: lazy afternoons outside, swimming, and lots of sun. But all of the splendors of summer come at a cost. Our pets must endure the heat, bugs and allergies that come with the months that encompass May through August of each year.

Since the heat of the summer is right around the corner, there are some things that will help make your companion more comfortable. Some of these things are simply common knowledge, but it’s easy to forget that pets have a different physiology than we do and often have a more difficult time in the heat than humans would.

First and foremost, don’t leave your dog in a locked car for any period of time. When it is hot it only takes minutes to reach dangerous temperatures inside the car. If you absolutely must leave your dog (although it is strongly recommended against), make sure the windows are left open and it is imperative that it only be for a brief period. Dogs can’t sweat the same way as humans can. They thermo-regulate mostly by panting and can sweat minimally through the bottom of their feet.

Heat stroke is a very serious life-threatening disease that can afflict dogs quite rapidly. dark-colored dogs are particularly prone to heat stroke due to the fact that their dark coat absorbs heat. Other medical factors that predispose your dog to heat stroke are obesity, laryngeal paralysis and heart disease. Some common early signs of heat stroke include panting, excessive salivation, hyper-excitement and increased rectal temperature. Heat stroke can affect every organ in the body; if you suspect that this is taking place, seek immediate veterinary attention for your pet.

Never leave your dog tied in a place where it can’t find shade or access to water. This seems very commonsense, but sometimes dogs left on chains or leads may wind themselves around a tree and cut off their access to water.

We all know that summer means bugs, and bugs are pests for humans and canines alike. Fleas are a common pest that thrive in moist, humid climates. Fleas live off the blood from their hosts and can cause itching from the bite itself or simply from crawling around under your pet’s coat. Flea bites can also cause an allergic reaction, called flea-bite dermatitis, in certain animals resulting in severe reactions such as intense itching, crusty skin and hair loss. Fleas can also be carriers for other parasites, such as tapeworms. Dogs that itch will groom themselves and ingest fleas, providing a direct route for tapeworms to develop in the intestines of your pet.

Mosquitoes, another pest of the summer, can carry larvae called Dirofilaria immitus, or heartworms, that can lodge in your dog’s pulmonary artery and cause serious health problems. Preventatives for fleas and heartworms are available in many different varieties and can be purchased from your veterinarian. Heartworm pills and flea preventative are relatively inexpensive and far outweigh the nuisance and health hazards triggered by a flea or heartworm infestation.

Many people clip or shave their dogs in the summer time with the logic that less hair will allow for a cooler canine. However, Dr. Karen Campbell, a veterinary dermatologist at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana, Ill., explains that clipping your dog may be counterproductive. The canine coat is designed to hold heat near the body in the winter, but also to insulate against the heat from the sun in the summer. Leaving your dog’s hair coat intact will actually provide a cool microenvironment for your pet. Your pet’s fur also helps act as a sunscreen to protect its skin from ultraviolet radiation. Yes, dogs can get sunburn as well.

Dr. Campbell does concede that a dark-colored dog will get a lot hotter in the summer due to his color (dark colors absorb more heat energy from the sun). If you do own a dark-colored dog it may be beneficial to clip it despite the loss of the insulating properties of their hair coat.

One thing is for certain, dogs that are outside in the summer heat should be properly groomed. Dr. Campbell reminds us that a matted coat will trap moisture on the skin providing an excellent environment for skin infections or even worse problems.

Allergies are a problem for humans and dogs alike. Allergic reactions may develop on your dog to various causes. One type of these reactions is called “hot spots.” They look like red, round spots that tend to have a slightly slimy appearance. While hot spots are an issue that certainly require a veterinarian’s care, Dr. Campbell recommends the temporary use of tea bags applied directly to these hot spots until a veterinary appointment can be made. “The tanic acid in the tea bags may help to relieve some of the irritation,” she says.

While the heat of summer can be oppressive to dogs there are some simple things like water, shade, flea and heartworm prevention, grooming and allergy care that can help make it more bearable. After all, our pets want to enjoy the summer as much as we do.

For more information about summer care for your pet, consult your local veterinarian.

An archive of Pet Columns from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine is available online at www.cvm.uiuc.edu/petcolumns/. Veterinary Extension/Office of Public Engagement University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine 217/333-2907

Source: Karen Campbell, DVM