An outbreak of dog flu hasn’t reportedly reached Missouri yet, but veterinarians in the state want dog owners to watch for symptoms.
The influenza A viral infection was first recognized in Chicago. Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio have all had several cases of the influenza, but there have been no reported cases in Missouri. The dog flu has infected around 1,000 dogs during the past few weeks and a small number of them have died.
University of Missouri Professor of Veterinary Internal Medicine Leah Cohn said the dog flu is highly contagious and told Missourinet what symptoms to look for.
“It causes dogs that are infected to develop a fever, to feel lousy, to not eat well, and have respiratory signs, so coughing, sneezing, nasal discharged, sometimes ocular discharge, just like a person with an influenza virus,” said Cohn.
Cohn said just like people with influenza, majority of dogs will recover over time.
“Some dogs on the other hand can become extremely sick and just as people with influenza can actually die of the infection, dogs can die too, but that’s the minority, most are going to be ok,” said Cohn.
Veterinarians say dogs with overall good health will be fine even if they are infected, but dogs that are older than seven years and younger than one are most at risk. Cohn suggests keeping dogs up to date on routine vaccinations, heartworm prevention, and making sure they don’t have parasites. Cohn said prevention relies on keeping dogs away from infected dogs.
“Avoid taking them to doggy daycares, or if you can have your animal watched in your home when you go out of town rather than going to a boarding facility or a kennel,” said Cohn. “Perhaps avoiding dog parks in times like these because it is a contagious disease and their only going to catch it if they are exposed to other dogs.”
Cohn suggests contacting a veterinarian by phone about a sick dog before taking it to a hospital.
“You want to avoid exposing other dogs to your dog when it’s sick, so one of the very importing things to do, is try to keep your dog isolated and away from other dogs if it’s showing respiratory signs,” said Cohn.
Cohn said there is a vaccination for canine influenza, but it may not be effective for this particular new strain. Cohn said avoiding the virus might be more effective than vaccination, and it is likely the outbreak will run its course and die down over time.
“I would avoid taking my dog to areas where there likely to be exposed to a number of other dogs right now while this epidemic plays itself out,” said Cohn.
Cohn said the dog flu does not affect humans, but the virus could be transmitted to cats.