Tag Archives: infection control

Controlling the spread of dog diseases

My comments:

In my experience, the boarding operations and day cares that I and my clients have used have all been diligent about infection control. This isn’t surprising.  Provision of care to multiple dogs in the same environment is their core business and they would be risking their livelihoods and reputation by having an outbreak of disease.

The use, however, of dog parks – at least in Christchurch – seems to be on the rise and this is not always a good thing.  Many of us have experienced dogs that are out of control and owners that don’t seem particularly interested in their responsibilities for picking up poo or training/socialising their dogs.  For this reason, I also question whether or not these owners understand the importance of the core vaccinations along the lines of accepted protocols, or if they recognise when their dog is under the weather.  As the guidelines note, not all diseases are fully preventable with vaccines.

There are only a handful of dogs I have met through my massage courses where the vet has agreed the dog shouldn’t be vaccinated – based on reactions in the past – and have documented this on the dog’s health record.

So, for anyone who organises events with dogs – these guidelines should be useful.  They are geared to North American conditions, but still useful elsewhere.  They are also useful for owners to understand infection control. If you choose to go to events with other animals, reviewing the guidelines and the risk calculator will help you be prepared.

Prevention is better than cure!

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand


Dogs aren’t exactly famous for their personal hygiene or for maintaining a respectful distance from their canine pals. With a nuzzle, a shared ball or a bark, a dog battling a bug can easily pass it to others and, in some cases, people.

dog-play-group

Photo by Ohio State University

This becomes especially worrisome in group settings, such as dog parks, dog shows and doggie daycare, where animals can spread illness rapidly and then carry it back into their homes and neighborhoods. Protocol for keeping disease transmission at bay has, until now, lagged decades behind efforts to contain human infectious disease.

New guidance for halting the spread of a multitude of dog diseases is now available, thanks to an effort led by veterinary experts at The Ohio State University.

The advice, which appears in a user-friendly guide and in a scientific paper in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, is intended to be a tool for those in charge of canine group settings and for dog owners, said Jason Stull, a veterinarian and assistant professor of veterinary preventive medicine at Ohio State.

“When you have many dogs in a fairly confined space, the opportunities for disease transmission are everywhere,” Stull said.

Stull and his co-authors want their work to lead to written infection prevention and control plans for settings where dogs congregate.

“In veterinary medicine we’re probably 30 years behind in our infection control efforts compared to human medicine,” he said. “But a lot of the risks really can be managed with some simple steps.”

Stull and his collaborators embarked on the effort at the urging of the American Kennel Club. The researchers reviewed more than 400 academic papers related to the topic and examined published reports of outbreaks of disease in dogs before developing their advice.

The guidance they provide is intended to be an outline of the best possible approach to infection control, Stull said.

But what works in one setting won’t necessarily be practical or possible in another and those who make use of it are expected to tailor the guidelines to their needs, he said.

Among the recommendations:

• Dogs with signs of infection should be kept out of group settings.
• People who touch dogs in group settings, such as handlers, staff and judges, should frequently wash their hands or use sanitizer.
• Community surfaces and items should be regularly disinfected and sharing of items such as leashes, toys and bowls should be avoided.
• Dogs should have up-to-date vaccinations, including against distemper, parvovirus, adenovirus, parainfluenza, Bordetella and rabies – all highly contagious diseases that can lead to severe disease and death.
• Efforts should be made to keep rodents and wildlife out of areas where dogs will be, and to keep dogs out of areas most likely to include ticks, fleas and other disease-carrying pests.
• Those in charge of group settings and those who participate should avail themselves of a new online risk calculator to help them determine the potential for disease spread.
• Dogs should be kept clean – and cleaned up after.
• Organizers of group events should avoid overcrowding of dogs.
• Care should be taken with puppies and other dogs with weaker immune systems. The benefits of socialization should be weighed against the risk of illness.
• Every group setting should have on-site or off-site access to a veterinarian who can help with disease-prevention guidelines.

In practice, following this advice could mean a judge uses hand sanitizer between groups of dogs when pulling up their jowls to look at their teeth.

It could mean a parks and recreation department works to eliminate standing water in a dog park, and to stay on top of keeping the grass mowed short.

It could mean a doggie daycare operator assigns dogs to smaller play groups so that if disease spreads it will be limited.

Stull said vaccines are an excellent guard against disease spread, but many of the threats to dog health aren’t vaccine-preventable and require additional thoughtful prevention.

“It’s going to be a bit of a culture change and we need everyone involved – from the dog owners to group organizers to large organizations such as the AKC,” he said.

“People who care about dogs are really invested and want to do what they can to protect their loved ones and that’s what we’re trying to do. On top of that, a lot of these diseases can be transmitted to people.”

Patricia Haines, past president of the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association and a consultant to Stull and his collaborators, said the information they’ve provided is invaluable and science-based.

“This project will be informative to the experts, those planning competitive events and for people who manage private facilities and public situations, such as dog parks,” said Haines, who raises and shows pointers.

“Many of the dog-loving public have never thought of the risks at dog parks and other group settings,” she said.

The new infectious disease guidelines do not focus on animal shelters and rescues, which have other factors to consider and for which there are some existing established recommendations, but rather on settings in which the dogs have owners.

About 35 percent of households in the U.S. and Canada have at least one dog – totaling about 75 million canine companions in North America.

The full report, including the risk calculator and fact sheets addressing particular infectious diseases, are available through the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine: http://go.osu.edu/IDk9risk.

Source:  Ohio State University media release

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It’s safe to cuddle when you’re sick

This winter, when you are home sick with the cold or flu cuddling with your dog or cat may feel like just what the doctor ordered.

A Vanderbilt infectious disease expert, while stopping short of actually prescribing in-home “pet therapy” for colds or flu, says that if having your companion by your side makes you feel better, go right ahead. Pets won’t catch or spread human viruses.

Izzy, greyhound, uin bed and ready to cuddle
“The pet is a comfort, not a hazard,” said William Schaffner, M.D., professor of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Even somebody who pets the dog or cat after you is unlikely to catch your virus that way, and “you can’t get a cold or the flu from your dog or cat,” Schaffner said.

While pets are pretty much off the hook, Schaffner says the true hazard in catching a virus comes from fellow two-legged creatures.

“Flu is transmitted person-to-person through close personal contact. If you get within my breathing zone, within three feet, I can transfer the influenza virus to you. I breathe it out, you breathe it in, and you can be infected,” Schaffner said.

Colds and flu can also be transmitted by hand—handshaking extroverts take note—or via some surfaces, such as when a sick person touches a doorknob, for example, and somebody else touches the same surface, and then touches his or her face.

“People should wash their hands often and use hand sanitizer,” Schaffner said. “Also, when flu is rampant in the community, greet friends with an elbow bump rather than a handshake.”

People and their pets have this in common: the best way to avoid getting sick is to be immunized—with pets it’s their vaccinations, and with people it’s a flu shot.

Source:  Newswise media release

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Infection control guidelines for animal visitation

The use of dogs in hospitals and other therapy institutions is on the rise, as more medical professionals acknowledge the positive effects of dogs on human patients.

New expert guidance by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) outlines recommendations for developing policies regarding the use of animals in healthcare facilities, including animal-assisted activities, service animals, research animals and personal pet visitation in acute care hospitals.

The guidance was published online in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, the journal of SHEA.

“Animals have had an increasing presence in healthcare facilities,” said David Weber, MD, MPH, a lead author of the recommendations. “While there may be benefits to patient care, the role of animals in the spread of bacteria is not well understood. We have developed standard infection prevention and control guidance to help protect patients and healthcare providers via animal-to-human transmission in healthcare settings.”

Guidance is grouped by the role of animals – animal-assisted activities (i.e., pet therapy and volunteer programs), service animals, research animals and personal pet visitation. Select recommendations include:

Animal-Assisted Activities

  • Facilities should develop a written policy for animal-assisted activities. An animal-assisted activity visit liaison should be designated.
  • Allow only dogs to serve in animal-assisted activities, such as pet therapy.
  • Animals and handlers should be formally trained and evaluated.
  • Animal interaction areas should be determined in collaboration with the Infection Prevention and Control team and clinical staff should be educated about the program.
  • Animal handlers must have all required immunizations, restrict contact of their animal to patient(s) visited and prevent the animal from having contact with invasive devices, and require that everyone who touches the animal to practice hand hygiene before and after contact.
  • The hospital should maintain a log of all animal-assisted activities visits including rooms and persons visited for potential contact tracing.

Service Animals

  • The policy allowing service animals of patients and visitors into the facility should be compliant with the Federal Americans for Disability Act (ADA), other applicable state and local regulations and include a statement that only dogs and miniature horses are recognized as Service Animals under federal law.
  • If an inpatient has a service animal, notification should be made to the Infection Prevention and Control Team, followed by discussion with the patient to make sure the owner of the service animal complies with institutional policies.
  • Healthcare providers or staff may ask the patient or visitor to describe what work/tasks the dog performs for the patient, but may not ask for a “certification” or “papers.”

Personal Pet Visitation

  • Pets should, in general, be prohibited from entering the healthcare facility.
  • Exceptions can be considered if the healthcare team determines that visitation with a pet would be of benefit to the patient and can be performed with limited risk. Even then, visitation should be restricted to dogs.
  • The patient must perform hand hygiene immediately before and after contact with the animal.

The authors of the guidance also note that as the role of animals in healthcare evolves, there is a need for stronger research to establish evidence-based guidelines to manage the risk to patients and healthcare providers.

This guidance on animals in healthcare facilities has been endorsed by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), the leading professional association for infection preventionists with more than 15,000 members.

Source:  EurekAlert! media release

Previous blogs about therapy dogs include: