COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA)—Dog owners in North and South Carolina need to be aware of the spread of the highly contagious dog flu, after two dogs in North Carolina died from it. The flu is suspected to have spread at a dog show in Georgia recently. There have been thousands of reported cases in at least 30 states.
Dr. Boyd Parr, the South Carolina State Veterinarian, says, “I’m not aware of any cases. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any. Some vets may have made clinical diagnoses or they may have sent it to other laboratories somewhere else, and it’s not reportable so they don’t have to tell me. But there’s been a lot of discussion.”
The H3N2 canine influenza emerged in the U.S. in Chicago in 2015. Five dogs there died.
Dr. Ginger Macaulay, a veterinarian at Cherokee Trail Animal Hospital in Lexington, S.C., says dog owners should look for symptoms that are the same as humans experience when they get the flu. “The biggest thing you’d probably notice with your dog would be coughing, maybe a runny nose, runny eyes, being lethargic, not wanting to move around very much and appetite falling off, because a lot of times as they get sicker they’ll start running a fever,” she says.
H3N2 has also infected cats but there is no evidence that it can infect people.
There is a vaccine, which was developed specifically from the H3N2 strain that emerged in 2015, but if you want to get it for your dog you should call your veterinarian first to make sure she has it.
And if you notice symptoms in your dog, Dr. Macaulay says don’t just take him to the vet. You should call your vet first and make sure the office knows you’re coming and that the dog has symptoms of the flu. If a sick dog coughs or sneezes, it can propel the virus up to 20 feet, and the virus can live on surfaces for up to 24 hours, so your vet may want you to bring your dog in through a different door or be ready so you can bring the dog in and go directly to a specific exam room without stopping in the waiting area.
Dr. Macaulay says, “They can easily come in and cough and, like in our office, they could infect most of our front reception area or, if you’re going to a dog park with your dog that’s coughing, it can easily infect a number of other dogs, or especially in a kennel situation.”
A sick dog that coughs or sneezes around you will also make your clothing a source of infection, so you could transmit it to other dogs you come into contact with just walking around.
Most dogs will recover from canine influenza within two to three weeks, but a secondary infection can develop which can lead to severe illness, pneumonia, or death.