When Hyperbole Rules, Your Animals Lose
“Deadly Canine Flu Sweeping the Midwest” reads the headline.
“Highly contagious,” says the article.
“Thousands” of dogs sickened in the Midwest, experts say.
“Brand new dog flu strain,” never seen before in the U.S., say researchers.
The canine influenza outbreak is all over the news and social media, and the hype about it is quite remarkable. And there’s news: it’s a new strain, called H3N2, originating from Asia, specifically China and South Korea.
If you have been on the planet for more than 30 years, and have a good sense of marketing and media hype, this is all pretty suspect. Unless you’re a vaccine manufacturer or a veterinarian who stands to profit from fear mongering increasing your sales of vaccines.
Let’s dig deeper to quell the fear the marketers would have you feel. As you know, if you’ve been reading along here for the last few years, fear sells.
And fear is NOT a good emotion with which to make health decisions, for you or your animals.
So, is this dog flu indeed a deadly disease? The same articles who emblazon that on their headlines point out that the death toll is now a whopping five or six dogs, which you discover when you read the opening sentence.
This death toll took place from January to March. In four states.
How many dogs died from being hit by cars in that same period? Or from cancer or heart disease? A whole lot more, yet that’s old news, and it doesn’t sell vaccines, does it?
It’s irresponsible to share articles like this on Twitter (“Tips on the Deadly Canine Flu Sweeping the Midwest”), where just the headline appears. Here’s a PhD dog trainer who did just that. Tsk tsk. It’ll get eyeballs to her site, though, and more sales perhaps, so maybe that’s why she shared the Enquirer-style headline.
How about “thousands sickened?” Again, reading beyond the first sentence will clear that up for you. This article takes getting to the second sentence to read, “infected more than 1000 dogs.”
Last I checked, “thousands” meant more than two. More than 1000? Meh. That could be a thousand and one, couldn’t it?
And those supposed thousands who were sickened, were they dying and causing untold heartache? No, because “the virus is rarely fatal,” says Purdue. And, further, these scientists tell us
The percent of dogs with the disease that die is very small. Eighty percent of infected dogs will have a mild form of the virus.
Dog flu is highly contagious. All that means is that it spreads easily. But only under certain circumstances, largely close confinement of dogs in kennels and shelters. The average dog out in the open air? Not much likelihood of catching dog flu. And those that get exposed may not even get sick.
Those that do get ill with canine influenza show
– a cough
– runny nose and eyes
– less appetite
– more sleeping
Mm hmm. Sounds like the flu in people doesn’t it? What do most people do when they have the flu? Rest it out, and it’s gone in a couple of days. Very similar in the dog, lasting 5-7 days, though the cough may persist longer.
Get Right on Antibiotics!
That’s some folks’ response to the canine flu. The dog picked up the flu while boarding and the owner was pleased with how the boarding facility handled poor Roxy-Rocket:
They got her to the vet right away and she was on antibiotics right away…”
Hold the phone.
Let’s all get on the same page here: dog flu is a virus, right? A virus from Asia with the alphabet soup of influenza abbreviations, H3N2.
And we’re confident that antibiotics are the treatment of choice?
Last I checked, viruses weren’t being killed by antibiotics. Beneficial gut bacteria are, and they’re an important part of the immune system. Isn’t the immune system what we’re counting on to keep our animals free of infectious diseases?
But when your main tool is a hammer, everything pretty much looks like a nail.
But, We Can Vaccinate for Dog Flu, Right?
Well, sure, you can. That’s an option. But is it your best option?
I found a common thread running through the articles I found on canine flu: uncertainty.
The consensus was, “It is not known if the current vaccine will provide any protection from this new virus” (It’s made from H3N8, the earlier strain from 2004).
That kind of leaves the door open for the vaccine vendors, doesn’t it?
“Well, we’re not sure if your dog will gain immunity from this vaccination, but we’re recommending it anyway. Dog flu is sweeping the nation, you know.”
As everyone is so uncertain, so let’s go to the vaccine mongers themselves and “Ask the Experts!” The Immunization Action Coalition says it very plainly, about human flu:
Infection from one virus type does not confer immunity to other types…
That’s why the human flu vaccine changes every year, trying to predict what the strain of the new year will be before it hits. And why that same vaccine usually fails to protect vaccinated humans from the flu year after year.
More important, if your goal is to raise a truly Vital Animal, is the question of safety. Vaccines are not safe and never have been.
So, risk chronic disease like itchy, allergic skin or years of painful, inflamed ears to likely poorly protect against a disease that’s rarely fatal, which most dogs recover from, some never even showing sickness after exposure?
Not something I’d recommend.
Is This Disease Worth Your Worry?
Dog flu is contagious, causes some cold symptoms for a while, is rarely fatal, and last I checked, it didn’t wipe out dog populations in Asia. And it’s earlier predecessor, the H3N8 version, spread 11 years ago from Florida dog race tracks, and it also wasn’t a deadly killer of dogs.
Most of those exposed to that earlier version fought it successfully and developed immunity afterwards.
And isn’t that the way it works in the world of Nature?
A similar “epidemic” happened several years ago when West Nile Virus went through the U.S. Feared by many, hyped in the news, and most exposed animals never even got sick, they just developed immunity.
Rather than fear the germ called dog flu, I’d suggest you look at ways to be sure your animals have strong immune systems. Pay attention to things like:
– avoiding vaccinations (which confuse the immune system mightily)
– feeding food that nourishes immunity and fits the species
– avoiding poisons for flea control (that also impair immunity)
– using non-toxic means to keep heartworm away (the common drugs often cause autoimmune disease)
– bolstering your dog’s immune system
If you do some or all of these things, I think you can join me in having a big yawn about the canine flu epidemic of 2015 (or its reappearance in 2017).
How about you? Have you seen this dog flu? Seen any significant illness from it? Tell us about it in the comments.