If This Dog Could Talk Initiative to Educate Pet Owners about Serious Health Threat
MADISON, N.J., July 21, 2016 – Merck Animal Health (known as MSD Animal Health outside the United States and Canada) today launched the multi-city If This Dog Could Talk tour to raise awareness of canine influenza (CIV)—a highly contagious disease that within the last year has impacted dogs in more than half of the country. The initiative is being conducted in collaboration with photographer Elias Weiss Friedman and his renowned photo-documentary series The Dogist. His unique storytelling through distinctive photographs will help reach pet owners with critical information about the risk factors for canine influenza and the importance of prevention.
“The Dogist documentary series tells unique stories about the lives of dogs through photographs, celebrating the beauty of dogs,” said Elias Weiss Friedman of The Dogist. “One of the most important stories to tell is about a dog’s health needs, so I am excited to collaborate on this campaign to help more pet owners understand the importance of protecting their dogs against canine influenza.”
As part of the campaign, Merck Animal Health will host pop-up events at local dog parks in areas of the country impacted by canine influenza outbreaks. The first event will be held in Chicago, which is where the initial outbreak occurred in 2015 and has continued to be a hotspot for CIV cases. These events will provide a fun, relaxed environment in which pet owners can get the facts about canine influenza, as well as other important tips to keep pets healthy.
“I’m part of this initiative because I’ve seen the devastating impact of CIV first hand— from a dog’s health and the emotional toll it takes on owners, to the impact it can have on local businesses and the community,” said Natalie Marks, D.V.M., co-owner of the Blum Animal Hospital in Chicago, and national veterinary spokesperson for the If This Dog Could Talk campaign. “When CIV broke in our area, we were seeing upwards of 15 cases a day and were working tirelessly to contain the spread of a very infectious strain of the disease, H3N2. I strongly recommend that pet owners with dogs that are social and regularly commingle with other dogs speak to their veterinarian now about what is right for their pet and to fully understand what puts a dog at risk for CIV.”
Canine influenza can spread quickly among social dogs in urban areas, doggie daycares, boarding facilities, dog parks, sporting and show events and any location where dogs comingle. Through the If This Dog Could Talk initiative,pet owners will gain important insight into how a dog’s story – or lifestyle – can lead to an increased risk of that dog contracting canine influenza. They will also learn about specific preventative measures that can be taken, including vaccination.
“At Merck Animal Health, we are pet owners and dog lovers ourselves and we know firsthand the joy dogs bring to our lives. We understand that dogs are a part of our families and we want to keep them happy and healthy too,” said Kathleen Heaney, D.V.M., Executive Director, Companion Animal Technical Services, Merck Animal Health. “This is why we are so committed to ensuring that pet owners have the information and resources needed to protect their four-legged family members from this preventable disease.”
In addition to engaging with a local veterinarian during each event, pet owners will also have the opportunity to meet and have their dogs photographed by The Dogist. Several dogs that were impacted by canine influenza will also be highlighted during the events—including incredible photos and their stories which will be memorialized in an e-book produced by The Dogist.
Those who are unable to attend an event are encouraged to support the campaign to raise awareness of canine influenza by posting photos of their dogs on Twitter using #IfThisDogCouldTalk and tagging @MerckAH. Select photos could also be featured in The Dogist e-book. For updates on local events, look out for posts from The Dogist on Facebook and Twitter. For more information about canine influenza, visit www.doginfluenza.com or visit the If This Dog Could Talk website at www.doginfluenza.com/IfThisDogCouldTalk. Owners who suspect their dog may have canine influenza or are concerned about their risk should speak with their veterinarian.
About Canine Influenza (CIV)
Canine influenza has only been present in the United States since 2003, meaning many pet owners are unaware that dogs can get the dog flu—the spread of which is exacerbated through social activity among dogs. In 2015, a new strain of canine influenza emerged in the United States – H3N2 – which is estimated to produce ten times more virus than previous strains and has already caused outbreaks in half of all U.S. states. According to clinical studies by researchers at the University of Wisconsin, H3N2 may be shed for an extended period of time – up to 24 days, which is far longer than what is seen with H3N8.1 Because the H3N2 strain is relatively new, close to 100 percent of dogs are naïve to the new virus and have no natural immunity to it, meaning virtually all exposed dogs become infected. Prevention is the best approach, and Merck Animal Health offers vaccines to protect against both CIV H3N2 and H3N8.
Common clinical signs of canine influenza include coughing, fever, sneezing, ocular discharge and lethargy. In severe cases, pneumonia can develop, and up to eight percent of critically ill dogs may die from complications.
About Merck Animal Health
For 125 years, Merck has been a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. Merck Animal Health, known as MSD Animal Health outside the United States and Canada, is the global animal health business unit of Merck.Through its commitment to the Science of Healthier Animals™, Merck Animal Health offers veterinarians, farmers, pet owners and governments one of the widest range of veterinary pharmaceuticals, vaccines and health management solutions and services. Merck Animal Health is dedicated to preserving and improving the health, well-being and performance of animals. It invests extensively in dynamic and comprehensive R&D resources and a modern, global supply chain. Merck Animal Health is present in more than 50 countries, while its products are available in some 150 markets. For more information, visit www.merck-animal-health.com or connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter at @MerckAH.
About The Dogist
The Dogist is a photo-documentary series about the beauty of dogs started by Elias Weiss Friedman in October 2013 and based out of New York City. The series has traveled to over 30 cities around the world and produced a book in 2015, The Dogist: Photographic Encounters with 1,000 Dogs. To learn more, follow The Dogist on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
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This news release of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J., USA (the “company”) includes “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the safe harbor provisions of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements are based upon the current beliefs and expectations of the company’s management and are subject to significant risks and uncertainties. If underlying assumptions prove inaccurate or risks or uncertainties materialize, actual results may differ materially from those set forth in the forward-looking statements.
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- 1. Updates in Canine Influenza Virus: Management, treatment and prevention of disease. VETgirl Webinar, July 27, 2015. Archived at www.vetgirlontherun.com.