Heroes for Healthy Pets

Companion Trends

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A look at how an Infectious Disease Management Certification Program is designed to help keep pets safe from infectious disease

Young veterinarian with medical document touching dog neck and cuddling it during appointment

There’s no way to get around it. Dogs that are social or visit pet businesses, such as doggie daycares, groomers, boarding facilities and dog parks, are at risk for infectious diseases. And clients care. According to a pet owner attitude and usage study, eight out of 10 pet owners said it was very or extremely important that a boarding facility requires all visiting pets to be vaccinated against infectious disease.

In order to address this, the Heroes for Healthy Pets™ Infectious Disease Management Certification Program was created.

“The Heroes for Healthy Pets™ Certification Program provides essential support to the veterinary and pet professional community to help keep pets healthy and is an excellent opportunity to better understand infectious diseases and preventive care,” said Michael Cavanaugh, DVM, DABVP (Emeritus), chief executive officer of AAHA.

The program provides best practices for preventive care, including strategic vaccination and cleaning and disinfection protocols, to help maintain disease-free facilities and keep pets healthy.

Heroes for Healthy Pets™ is taught by leading infectious disease experts. It provides 2 hours of RACE-approved continuing education credit for veterinary professionals or 2 hours of PACCC educational credit for pet service professionals. Participants can also apply for a business certification and promote their achievement by using the Heroes for Healthy Pets™ marketing toolkit.

The program is sponsored by Merck Animal Health and Clorox Healthcare in coordination with Barkleigh Productions, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA), International Boarding and Pet Services Association (IBPSA), Pet Sitters International (PSI), and VetGirl.

Ideal time to educate

It’s important for veterinary practices to have a vaccination protocol in place to protect pets and prevent the spread of infectious disease, says Dr. Madeline Stahl, Associate Director of Scientific Marketing Affairs for Merck Animal Health. “We promote CIV vaccination on the DogFlu.com website and we recommend the bivalent dog flu vaccine be given at the same time as other vaccines that prevent respiratory infections in dogs (like distemper, parainfluenza virus, and Bordetella).”

To encourage CIV vaccination during Dog Flu Prevention Week, Merck Animal Health spread the word in several ways. The first was a national media tour across radio, broadcast and the internet with Dr. Mortsakis of New York Veterinary Practice and the owner of Manny the Frenchie, the world’s most followed French bulldog, to educate dog owners about the risk of dog flu and share information about vaccination. Merck Animal Health also highlighted Dog Flu Prevention Week in its newsletter, as well as developed a social media toolkit for veterinary clinics to spread awareness.

The 2015 outbreak of H3N2 and licensure of new influenza vaccines prompted a renewed interest in infectious disease control in veterinary practices. However, in the absence of continuous outbreak situations, vaccination recommendations and compliance often drops off, says Dr. Stahl.

“While Merck Animal Health is working to increase pet owner awareness of the serious risk of dog flu, it is still up to veterinary professionals to emphasize to their clients the importance of vaccinating annually against canine influenza,” she says.

The 2017 American Animal Hospital Association has outlined in its Canine Vaccination Guidelines that “Any dog deemed at risk for exposure to influenza virus should be vaccinated against both H3N2 and H3N8 strains.” Dogs at highest risk for CIV can be targeted by using the clinic database. Patients vaccinated for Bordetella and other respiratory pathogens, such as parainfluenza, lead a lifestyle that also puts them at risk for CIV. Owners should be contacted to update them on the risk from dog flu and to schedule an appointment for vaccination, says Dr. Stahl. “With warmer weather and more canines socializing during walks and dog park play dates, now is an ideal time to educate pet owners.”

The industry can better manage outbreaks by creating stronger vaccination guidelines to include “social” vaccines like CIV & Bordetella for a wider selection of dogs, says Dr. Stahl. “The industry should also take into account how to limit the spread of infectious agents to prevent an outbreak,” she says. “Our Heroes for Healthy Pets™ course successfully outlines signs of infectious diseases, highlights prevention through vaccination, and discusses how to limit the spread of infectious agents through effective decontamination procedures. Through education and vaccination, the industry can become better equipped to prevent and manage outbreaks.”

For more information, visit dogflu.com/heroes-for-healthy-pets.