WASHINGTON — We all love our pets. That’s part of why a recent spike in canine flu has sparked conversation online.
Canine flu isn’t new. Doctors say that the disease has been around for at least 10 years in various pockets across the country.
Still, when it comes to our furry friends, we’ll stop at nothing to make sure they’re alright. So, let’s verify what you need to know and if dog owners should be concerned.
Is it true that canine flu cases are on the rise in the D.C. Metro area?
Dr. Christine Klippen, Veterinarian at Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington, D.C.
Yes, canine flu cases are up — but there are things you can do to keep your pets safe and slow the spread.
WHAT WE FOUND
Canine flu is up across our region, and many of the new cases are coming out of Montgomery County and Prince George’s County.
“That’s where we’re hearing it anecdotally,” said Dr. Klippen. “We’re hearing it from our referred veterinary partners, and we’re hearing it from some of the veterinary Facebook forums.”
The CDC defines canine influenza — also known as dog flu or canine flu — as “a contagious respiratory disease in dogs caused by specific Type A influenza viruses known to infect dogs.”
The symptoms are similar to those of the flu in humans: cough, runny nose, fever, lethargy, eye discharge, and reduced appetite.
The severity varies from dog to dog. At best, canine flu is barely noticeable. At worst, it can cause pneumonia and even death.
The disease is spread through respiratory droplets when dogs cough, sneeze, or come into contact with contaminated surfaces. To complicate things, infected dogs can be contagious for weeks.
“Animals can continue to shed the virus 14 to 20 days after the resolution of their last cough,” said Dr. Klippen.
She urged owners to keep symptomatic pets out of dog parks, daycares, boarding kennels, and even veterinary offices if symptoms are mild enough to not require treatment.
“The ones that need to be more evaluated by a veterinarian are the ones that that dry cough will change to a moist cough,” she said.
There is some good news though, experts claim there is no evidence that canine flu can spread from dogs to people, and no human infections have ever been reported. It can, however, be spread to cats.
It’s also worth noting that while canine flu can be fatal, the percentage of dogs that die from the illness is very small according to the CDC.
Still, if you have a multi-pet household, it might be time to institute some lockdown producers — only this time just for our furry friends.
If your dog or cat is older, has other health conditions, or you just want to be extra careful, vaccines are available. We recommend consulting with your veterinarian on how best to protect your pets.