Canine flu has abated, but vet says keep your dog’s guard up

By Bill Brady

More than 100 cases of canine flu were reported in Minnesota in 2023, including five in Ramsey County.

Fortunately, the highly contagious influenza peaked during the summer, with no new cases reported to the state Board of Animal Health since August.

That’s a relief if you’re a dog owner, especially one who likes to take Daisy to the dog park or to the doggy daycare. It doesn’t mean, however, that you can let your dog’s guard down.

“We could certainly still see outbreaks in the future,” cautioned Megan Schommer, veterinarian and co-owner of St. Francis Animal Hospital on Larpenteur Avenue in Roseville. “Social dogs especially should get vaccinated for it now that veterinarians have ready access to the vaccine.”

Moreover, canine flu is only the most recent and most potent scare. Communicable illness always pose concern, from respiratory bugs that spike in the colder months to the mosquito-, flea- and tick-born maladies of spring and summer.

“The most important way to keep pets healthy is good preventative care, Schommer said. “If your dog is a social butterfly, it is extra important to keep up on preventative medications.”

These include vaccines, which protect against diseases your pet can be exposed to when interacting with other dogs or with wildlife; heartworm preventatives, which fight intestinal parasites; and flea/tick medications, which protect against infections spread by mosquitoes and other buggy annoyances.

Besides infectious ailments, dog owners must always be alert to troubles that their “best friends” can bring on themselves due to their curious natures. “Dogs are the ultimate opportunists!” Schommer noted. Especially when the opportunity involves engulfing something orally, they seldom pass it up, and they can move at lightning speed.

“The most worrisome items for dogs to put in their mouths are indigestible items like rocks, anything that might carry bacteria such as dead animals, and stool from other animals,” Schommer warned. “Twigs and small sticks are generally safe, but larger sticks can be sharp enough to cause damage to gum tissue or cause an intestinal obstruction.”

And then there is, of course, the biggest doggy no-no of them all: chocolate.

“Every year, we see a number of dogs with chocolate toxicity who managed to ingest an entire box of, say, Valentine’s chocolates,” Schommer said. “Keep them as far away from that as you can. Remember that dogs have an excellent sense of smell and can usually tell that there is something yummy inside a box, even if it is well wrapped.”

Just like us, dogs need to return to outdoor activity gradually in the spring after being less active in the winter. Schommer recommends a deliberate approach, allowing your dog to build back stamina and muscle over a couple of months.

Dogs also need time to acclimate to warmer temperatures, she concluded. “As we head back into warmer, sunnier days, give your dog extra breaks and extra water when they are outside and active until they adjust.” 

Bill Brady is the Bugle copy editor. He and his wife, Cheryl, are owners of Corky, a 14-year old beagle-­border collie mix.

Photo credit: St. Francis Animal Hospital co-owner Megan Schommer, with dog Winnie and bunny Daffodil. Submitted photo.

Leave a Reply