We lost our sweet Bear this past weekend. His death was almost as unexpected as our Heidi’s sudden death just this past December, 2011. A gentle little dog, Bear was adopted in October 2004 from a local NJ rescue group. He was 5 years old and had been turned in by a backyard breeder who had used him as a breeding male up until that time. I fell in love with him the first time I saw him and he lived with our little family for almost 7 ½ years before his sudden passing. He was deeply loved and will be missed.
Bear had his annual visit to the vet on February 12th. All his blood, urine & fecal tests were normal and his vaccinations were all updated during that visit, including his Bordetella vaccine. Two weeks later on February 28th, we took him to the groomer for a bath & haircut. Four days after that, he began to exhibit a little cough but not so much that we were worried. During the next week, everything seemed normal. He was eating, drinking water, going to the bathroom normally and the little cough seemed to be just that; little. By Friday night though; he was coughing almost constantly and laboring to breathe. I just knew by the sound & feel of him that he had pneumonia. Our vet actually came outside to the car to look at Bear when we arrived and quickly rushed him inside through a rear door (so as not to infect other dogs in his waiting room). Bear was immediately placed on oxygen. He was examined, x-rayed, dosed with antibiotics, then placed in an oxygen tent. Some of his pink color came back (his gums & tongue were blue) but even after a few hours of this, Bear still labored to breathe and the prognosis was not good. The xrays showed his lungs filled with fluid and that he did indeed, have pneumonia. Bear was struggling to breathe and we knew that he would not recover from this on his own. His age being a factor, Luke & I did not want to have him suffocate while alone in the hospital overnight and bringing him home in that horrendous condition was out of the question. And so, Bear died peacefully in my arms that afternoon ~ with dignity and without the torture of suffocation.
*I believe that he caught this flu while at groomer 10 days earlier although there is no proof and really no one to blame. PLEASE, if you own a dog; check with your family veterinarian about this dangerous illness before exposing him or her to other dogs, a Boarding Kennel or the Groomer. The annual Bordetella vaccine against “kennel cough” is not sufficient to prevent infection.
The following is excerpted from PetMD.com:
CANINE INFLUENZA: The virus that causes dog flu, Influenza Type A (H3N8), was first identified in Florida in 2004. It primarily infects the respiratory system and is extremely contagious. A vaccine was granted full license by the United States Department of Agriculture in 2009 (Nobivac® Canine Flu H3N8). Some dogs can be exposed to the virus and fight off infection without showing clinical signs.
Symptoms and Types
Dogs that are infected with the canine influenza virus may develop two different syndromes:
1. Mild – These dogs will have a cough that is typically moist and can have nasal discharge. Occasionally, it will be more of a dry cough. In most cases, the symptoms will last 10 to 30 days and usually will go away on its own.
2. Severe – Generally, these dogs have a high fever (above 104 degrees Fahrenheit) and develop signs very quickly. Pneumonia, specifically hemorrhagic pneumonia, can develop. The influenza virus affects the capillaries in the lungs, so the dog may cough up blood and have trouble breathing if there is bleeding into the alveoli (air sacs). Patients may also be infected with bacterial pneumonia, which can further complicate the situation.
The mild form is usually treated with cough suppressants. Antibiotics may be used if there is a secondary bacterial infection. Rest and isolation from other dogs is also important.
The severe form needs to be treated aggressively with a broad spectrum of antibiotics, fluids and other general support treatments. Hospitalization and isolation are necessary until the dog is stable.
Living and Management
A vaccine for the canine flu is currently available, though it should only be considered after speaking with your veterinarian. In addition, there are other respiratory conditions that can be vaccinated against, specifically Bordetella bronchiseptica, the bacteria responsible for what is commonly called “kennel cough.”
Any dog that is suspected to have canine influenza should be isolated from other dogs. Those dogs with the mild form of the infection usually recover on their own. Canine influenza is not a contagion issue for humans or other species.