The Facts on Dog Flu

dog under a blanket looking sick

Do you get a flu shot every year?  Have you ever had the flu?  Did you know your dogs can get the flu too?  Here’s some facts you should know about Canine Influenza.

  1. Dog flu is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by specific viruses.
  2. There are 2 strains of the virus that specifically infect dogs: H3N8 and H3N2.
  3. The virus is spread through the air.  Dogs who are kenneled together, living in shelters, or socializing at the park are susceptible.  The virus can also be spread through contaminated objects like toys.
  4. There are no reported cases of dog flu transmitting to humans.  However, given their constantly changing nature, it is scientifically possible that one day the virus could be transmitted from dogs to humans.
  5. Symptoms include cough, runny nose, fever, lethargy, eye discharge, and poor appetite.
  6. Not all dogs will show symptoms.
  7. Cases can range from minor to severe.  Dogs can develop secondary bacterial infections resulting in pneumonia or even death, although the percentage of those cases is very small.  Most dogs recover within 2 or 3 weeks.
  8. Treatment consists mostly of supportive care.
  9. There is a canine influenza vaccine available.  If your dog is often interacting with other dogs, you may want to ask your vet about vaccination as a preventative measure.
  10. If you think your dog is sick, seek veterinary attention.

 

In Case of Emergency

Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, fires.  It’s not a matter of if these things happen, it’s only a matter of when.  Being prepared for emergency situations is absolutely vital, and being a livestock owner presents a unique set of challenges.  What can you do to help keep your horses safe in an emergency?

First and foremost, your priority is you and your family.  Do you have everything you need to be prepared?  If you yourself aren’t taken care of, how can you possibly take care of your animals?  After you get your personal emergency kit and your plan all settled, turn your focus to preparing your animals.

9 Key Concepts to Help You Prepare

Make sure you have multiple forms of identification.  There are plenty of options available.  It is best to use several in case one fails.  Having identification is extremely important, in the case that you become separated from your animals.  It is not uncommon for good Samaritans to load up trailers with whatever horses they can, without knowing who they belong to, and owners are faced with tracking down their horses afterwards.

  • Microchip your horse, just as you would a dog or cat.  The chip is permanent, long term, cannot be tampered with, and cannot be misplaced in the chaos of an emergency.
  • Attach ID tags on halters, neck bands, and/or leg bands.  These items will include your emergency contact information, are designed to stay on your horse, and have a safety breakaway feature.
horse id collar
ID collars similar to this are available online and very helpful in emergencies.
  • Note any tattoos and brands.  Previously raced horses should all have a unique tattoo inside their upper lip.  BLM mustangs will all have a unique freeze brand on their neck.  Horses coming from large ranches may even have a traditional brand identifying which ranch they came from.  These features are permanent and a quick way to help identify your horse.
shoulder brand, freeze brand, horse id
A freeze brand on the shoulder is a very unique feature that will help id your horse.
  • Record your horse’s breed, size, color, markings, scars, cowlicks, whorls, and any other unique features.  How would you describe your horse over the phone to a stranger?  Let’s say they’re looking at two similar chestnut geldings, how can they tell which is yours?
  • Take full frame, close up photos of your horse.  Get each side and front and back views.
  • In a real pinch, get creative.  Take a permanent marker and write your information on your horse’s hooves.  Grab spray paint or Blu Kote and spray your phone number on to your horse’s side.
horse emergency id
Make sure you can be reached if you and your horse become separated.

Have at least one halter and one lead rope available for each horse.

  • Keep them close to the horse’s stall.
  • In fire risk areas, make sure the halter is leather and the lead rope is cotton.  Believe it or not, a standard nylon halter could melt.
  • Store extra halters and leads in the tack room, truck, or trailer.  Just in case.

Keep medical records, photos, and proof of ownership stored safely.  These can help keep your horse safe while it is evacuated.  Is your horse on medication?  Do they have any allergies or medical conditions?  What do they normally eat?  Is your horse a stallion, or a pregnant mare?  These pieces of information will help keep them be cared for after they’ve been removed from the immediate danger.  You may also need to prove that your horse belongs to you, in the unfortunate situation that there are any disputes of ownership.

  • Have physical copies stored in a water tight bag, somewhere safe but convenient.
  • Give copies out to friends and family.
  • Keep digital copies accessible online in the cloud

Have a transportation plan for evacuation.

  • Have your own truck and trailer?  Keep them both maintained and road-ready by conducting periodic checks.
  • No trailer of your own?  Make arrangements with a reliable neighbor of friend who has one.
  • Plan out multiple exit routes and have a prearranged evacuation site.

Practice loading and unloading.

  • Your horse MUST get in the trailer.  During an emergency, there will be added stress.  Make it easier on your horse and on you, by practicing loading and unloading often.
horse trailer evacuation
Get your horse comfortable loading into a trailer, so you can evacuate quickly.

Evacuate early.

  • Don’t wait until the last minute.
  • Roads can close, conditions can change.  If you wait too long, you run the risk of being forced to leave your horses behind.

Have a multiple back-up plans.

  • When do emergencies go according to plan?  Basically never.
  • Include a last resort “shelter in place” plan.  What will you do in case you can’t get your horses out?  Where will they be safest on the property?

Communicate your plan.

  • Share your plan with family and friends.
  • If you operate a facility, discuss your plan with the local fire department.
  • Have instructions posted in the barn in case you are not able to be there during an emergency.

Have your supply kits ready and stocked.

  • Keep 72 hours worth of feed and water.
  • Don’t forget equipment like water buckets and hay nets.
  • Have a first aid kit made with supplies for treating physical injuries and internal illnesses.
  • A flashlight, wire cutters, and a sharp knife can really come in handy!

Always Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth: Part 2

Like we mentioned in Part 1, horses have long teeth that continuously erupt out of the gums throughout their lifetime.  It’s good that their teeth are constantly “growing” because their natural food source – grasses, hays, and forages – are very fibrous and abrasive, and chewing causes the teeth to wear down.

Here you can see the portion of molar that is below the gum line. It will eventually make its way to the surface as the teeth wear down.

A horse’s upper molars are slightly father apart than their lower molars.  This leads to uneven wear across the surface of the molars, and can cause sharp ridges or points on the teeth.  These points can be as sharp as razors, and in the very least, will cause your horse discomfort.  At most, the sharp teeth can cut your horse’s cheeks, the teeth could fracture or become infected, or they could even fall out of the jaw.  A horse with poor dental condition may be losing weight due to not being able to comfortably eat.  They may also show signs of discomfort while being handled or ridden, for example head tossing while carrying a bit.  This is why routine dental exams and maintenance are key to horse health.

An average adult horse should have dental maintenance about every two years.  Horse’s with dental abnormalities, like overbites, may require more frequent exams.  A veterinarian or equine dentist will perform a process called “floating.”  This is basically a process of filing down the edges and points of the teeth, and making minor adjustments to the alignment of the teeth.  The procedure is not painful for the horse, but for ease of handling and manipulating the horse’s jaw, it is common to see horses given a sedative.  The purpose of floating teeth is not to make the teeth perfectly flat, as they need some irregular surface to grind up food, but rather to create a fairly level match between upper and lower teeth, without any waves or points.

Getting a good look inside a horse’s mouth