Sick as a Dog

Just for grins (so far this is panning out to be a slow afternoon) I looked up the origin of the phrase “sick as a dog”.  Thank God for Google by the way.  Anyhow, according to Word Detective.com:  “Sick as a dog,” which means “extremely sick” and dates back to at least the 17th century, is also not so much negative as it is simply descriptive. Anyone who knows dogs knows that while they can and often will eat absolutely anything, on those occasions when their diet disagrees with them the results can be quite dramatic.”

Furthermore he notes: “So to really appreciate the original sense of “sick as a dog,” imagine yourself seated in the parlor having tea with the Vicar on a lovely Sunday afternoon, when Fido staggers in from a meal of sun-dried woodchuck and expresses his unease all over your heirloom oriental carpet. It’s actually rather amazing that goldfish aren’t more popular.”

I was pondering that phraseology last week as I was slogging through work, suffering from the cold virus that has been worming its way through the clinic for the last few weeks.   I think it has affected everybody but Adrian the new girl, and maybe Linda the all natural herbal hippie.  Must be all that clean livin’ protecting those two. 

Dr. Rogers and I were sick with it last week.  Dr. Sharp made fun of us slightly relentlessly.  I particularly remember him mentioning that we female vets were “weak”. 

Guess who was at the doctor yesterday?  (For the first time for something other than a routine exam in the 10 years I’ve worked here, I might add) Dr. Sharp was.  He caught the cold over the weekend and it left him with this hoarse croak that sounded remarkably like the utterances of Billy Bob Thornton’s character in the  movie Slingblade.  (I did make Dr. Sharp give me an MMMM-HMMMMM just for fun). 

He’s fine and I’ve worked hard not to make fun of him…too much. 

Home remedies and holistic treatments are all over the place around here.  The kids in the back are sharing Airborne like crazy.  We’ve got hand sanitizer everywhere you look. 

I was choking down Emergen-C immunity support fizzy drink.  It smells like powdered vitamins, and tastes ok.  I’m pretty convinced it helped me get over the cold faster though. 

Linda the holistic hippie brought some herbal broth to open sinuses.  Amy the Jewish mom brought us a big batch of matzo ball soup to open our hearts.  

It’s so cool, our little work family, taking care of each other.  It’s one of the reasons I like working here. 

The whole place sounded like a symphony of snorts, sneezes and coughs (it’s dying down now).  It’s pretty embarrassing seeing clients with a cold.  Having to interrupt them to blow my nose.  I feel like they’re giving me this look of  dread that I’m putting my germs on their pet (it’s probably similar to the look I give them when they or their kids are sick, and I’m thinking:  “oh gross, their germs are probably on the dog and I’m going to catch it!”). 

I actually had a lady last week say she was “gonna kill me” if she got sick.  Nice huh? 

Periodically I get the question “could my dog have caught this from me?”  Generally, there isn’t much that transmits from dogs to humans and vice versa (at least from a viral standpoint, parasites, fungi, bacteria and rickettsia are a whole ‘nother can of worms…no pun intended). 

I posted the question on VIN (the Veterinary Information Network, an online vets only community where we pay a monthly fee to have specialists answer all of our random questions for us).  The specialists on VIN can sometimes be elitist, snooty academic types who sneer at you if you don’t ask them a smart enough question. 

So, it was with a little trepidation that I asked “why don’t dogs catch colds?”

Thankfully, I got a nice virologist from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.  She informed me that most human colds are the product of Rhinoviruses (kind of funny name, I imagine these little rhino shaped guys invading nasal passages).  Anyhow, they seem to infect humans only.  She said, currently nobody has found any Rhinoviruses affecting dogs, but who knows, someday they might. 

Dogs do get colds, in the sense of runny nose, cough, feeling icky.  These are caused by Canine Adenovirus, Canine Herpesvirus (different from the STD human Herpes), respiratory Coronavirus, and Parainfluenza to name a few.  There is a Human Adenovirus that can cause cold symptoms in people, but doesn’t cross over into dogs. 

She said that some experimental models have achieved transmission of human seasonal influenza to dogs (ie when a researcher infects a dog with human flu virus in a laboratory setting).  However, in real life situations, transmission has not occurred. 

The dog flu that is being mentioned in the news actually came over from horse flu.  The biggest outbreak so far was in 2004 in racing greyhounds.  According to the AVMA’s report http://www.avma.org/public_health/influenza/canine_bgnd.asp , canine flu is endemic (very prevalent) in areas of Colorado, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania . 

We have the vaccine, by the way.  We’re not pushing it too hard because so far we haven’t seen or heard of any cases in the area.  Per the AVMA Report: “The canine influenza vaccine is a “lifestyle” vaccine, and is not recommended for every dog.4 In general, the vaccine is intended for the protection of dogs at risk for exposure to the CI virus, which include those that either participate in activities with many other dogs or are housed in communal facilities, particularly where the virus is prevalent. ” My interpretation of that is dogs who go to shows and other events, board frequently, etc. 

We are monitoring the situation and will adjust our recommendations according to what we see out there.

I will probably vaccinate Mia for it, primarily because she comes to work with me.  I’ll probably vaccinate Scully and Katelin too, since they board here pretty often.  What better place to be exposed to canine flu virus than a vet clinic right? 

 Hmmmm, maybe we should require it for all boarders.  I’d better talk to the boss about that one.   It’s a tough call, we don’t want to over-vaccinate, but don’t want to be caught with our proverbial pants down should an outbreak occur. 

So there you go.  A little diatribe.  My thoughts on some of those nasty little germies that plague us and our pets. 

I’m going to have some more matzo ball soup…

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