Dog owners are on alert after authorities in Fairfax County in Virginia recently confirmed at least six cases of canine influenza that resulted in one death and the closure of an animal shelter kennel, according to published reports.
Authorities announced the first identified cases in the state on Aug. 14, according to a Washington Post article. Bean, a 15-year-old Whippet, died July 27 due to complications from pneumonia, according to the Fairfax Times.
Staff at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter closed the dog kennel for at least two weeks and quarantined about 26 dogs with suspected symptoms.
The H3N8 virus which causes canine flu does not affect humans or other animals. However they can help spread the respiratory disease among their pooch pals if theyÃve been in contact with sick dogs who have been coughing or sneezing.
The first symptom may resemble kennel cough but if it’s followed by a runny nose, fever and moist productive cough, dog parents should seek veterinary care for their dog, said Dr. Michele Hoag of Plaza Del Amo Animal Hospital, in the Los Angeles area.
Hoag said she hasn’t seen any canine flu cases recently in her area but saw an outbreak about two years ago.
Some dogs may show no symptoms while a small proportion will develop pneumonia. The number of dogs who die from the disease is very small, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Nearly all dogs are susceptible to falling ill with the relatively new canine flu, and about 80 percent of canines will have a mild form of the disease, according to the CDC.
Veterinarians can test for canine flu by collecting nasal swabs and two blood samples. Treatment for the disease helps the dog mount an immune response.
Dogs who are mildly sick may receive medication to make them comfortable and fluids to remain well-hydrated. Veterinarians may prescribe antibiotics if they suspect a patient has a secondary bacterial infection.
A vaccine was recently approved for canine influenza but it will only lessen symptoms and prevent pneumonia. It will not keep dogs from getting sick.
Canine flu was first identified in 2004 when racing Greyhounds in Florida suffered an outbreak. The disease has since been detected in 30 states and the District of Columbia, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
The virus incubates in 48 hours and can live on hard surfaces, hair and fabric. The virus can spread by contact with contaminated objects, respiratory secretions from infected dogs and people who had contact with sick dogs.
Because of that, dog owners whose pets are showing symptoms shouldn’t bring them to day care, kennels and other places where dogs gather. They should clean and disinfect their hands and other items that were exposed to sick dogs.
Hoag advised dog parents to watch out for dogs showing flu symptoms when they bring their pups to dog parks. They can also avoid visiting the park during peak hours and bring their dogs during less busy times.