Saturday, January 28, 2023

With 2018 dog flu on the rise, don’t let your pet become a statistic

The latest outbreak of dog flu occurred in May, at two dog shows — in Perry, Ga. and Deland, Fla. — where infected show dogs then subsequently led to the infection of some 2,000 dogs in 30 states in the U.S. (file photo)
In Williamsburg, dogs have a high chance of catching canine influenza because dogs from around the country come here often. Other states have also had large outbreaks.(file photo)

Canine companions are treated like one of the family, but many owners aren’t aware of the unseen threat that can end a dog’s life.

Canine influenza, H3N2, or “dog flu,” is a respiratory disease caused by a specific type of virus that can infect dogs, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus originated in horses, but then spread to dogs and other animals.

So far this year, there are 72 cases of the flu in California, 22 in Kentucky, 14 in Ohio and one in Michigan, according to Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Science.

There are no diagnosed cases of dog flu in Williamsburg yet, but the possibility for contracting the dog flu is still fairly high, according to Dr. Pamela N. Dumont, medical director and owner of Godspeed Animal Care in Williamsburg.

Something as simple as a sweater coming into contact with the virus can spread it to your pet.

“There are people that feel that since the human flu isn’t usually fatal, then their dogs will be fine,” Dumont said. “People don’t realize that if their dog is exposed, it has a one in ten chance of dying.”

Active dogs are actually most at risk because they tend to breathe harder, allowing the virus to settle into their lungs faster, creating mucus that then morphs into a cough.

Dumont said dogs in Williamsburg specifically have a high chance of catching canine influenza because dogs from around the country come to the area often, and there are already outbreaks in other states.

“Any dog that walks where any other dog has should be vaccinated,” Dumont said. “And if not, the owner should know that their dog could catch the illness otherwise.”

Where did dog flu come from?

The first known case of dog flu occurred in 2004 and involved a canine in an Asian food market, Dumont said. After that, the virus spread rapidly to the United States.

In 2017, two dog shows spread the flu to nearly 300 dogs in Georgia and Florida, according to Dumont. The infected show dogs then subsequently led to the infection of some 2,000 dogs in 30 states in the U.S., including many in the South.

In 2016, four cats were found to be infected with the virus, Dumont said. Cats cannot catch the virus from another feline, but they can contract it through exposure in other ways.

The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that the virus can have a 40 percent mortality rate for cats.

In many pet shelters, pets are returned often for a variety of reasons from illness to social issues, according to a survey from the ASPCA. But the Heritage Humane Society hasn’t encountered this problem. (Alexa Doiron/WYDaily)
Puppies can get vaccinated as early as eight weeks old, but dogs who are in midlife and particularly active are more susceptible to contamination because they are exposed more often. (Alexa Doiron/WYDaily)

Prevention

It’s important to recognize signs of the flu as soon as possible, because many people just write the symptoms off as a simple cold and assume their dog will get better, Dumont said.

While many dogs may not contract the flu, recognizing the signs early will help ensure the health and safety of the family pet. According to the CDC, the most common signs of the virus are:

  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Eye discharge
  • Reduced appetite

Canine flu cannot be spread to people, but human owners should still take precautions not to accidentally expose their pets.

One way to prevent exposure is to keep pets entirely away from other dogs, but even that tactic might not work because the virus can live on surfaces for at least two days, Dumont said. The best way to stop your canine from getting the virus is to get the vaccine.

Dumont recommends dogs get the canine flu vaccine, which most veterinarian offices offer. The vaccine has had no side effects since Dumont began giving it about five years ago.

But some owners are still skeptical about the vaccine.

Some owners worry about over vaccinating their dogs but Dumont requires any canines being boarded at her facility to be vaccinated.

Puppies can get vaccinated as early as eight weeks old, but dogs who are in midlife and particularly active are more susceptible to contamination because they are exposed more often, according to Dumont.

“The dog that just walked where your dog walked or drank where your dog drank, could be a dog from Florida and unknowingly carrying the virus,” Dumont said. “If the canine influenza hits Williamsburg, the results would be drastic.”

WYDaily archives were used in this story.

Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doironhttp://wydaily.com
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at alexa@localvoicemedia.com.

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