Florida Dog Flu Outbreak: Vets Urge Owners To Vaccinate Pets Against Highly Contagious Strain

A new strain of canine influenza virus is raising concerns for pet owners in the state of Florida. State officials are now keeping an eye on this dog flu outbreak that has been confirmed and suspected in a total of 13 dogs. According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), seven of the dog flu cases have been confirmed while the six are suspected.

These cases have been confirmed in Central and North Florida, including the Orlando area, since last week. Canine influenza is not fatal but if left untreated, the disease can get serious and can even develop into life-threatening pneumonia.

It is believed that the dogs that have tested positive for dog flu attended a dog show in Perry, Georgia from May 19 to 21 or the dog show in Deland, Florida the following weekend, NBC Miami reported.

This would be the first time that a highly contagious flu strain, the H3N2 virus, has broken out in Florida, FDACS said in a press release. That said, Dr. Cynda Crawford, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine, is urging Florida dog owners and veterinarians to be aware of this ongoing outbreak. The virus doesn’t affect humans but it can spread to cats.

“It’s very important for the veterinarians and dog owners in the state of Florida to have a very heightened awareness of the presence of this virus,” Crawford said in a news conference on Thursday.

Crawford also emphasized that owners should make sure their dogs get vaccinated, especially if there have been reported cases in their area.

Florida has confirmed 13 cases of dog flu in the state
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“The more dogs in a community that we can vaccinate to build up community immunity, the better chance we have of keeping that virus out.”

Dr. Marta Lista of Trail Animal Hospital in West Miami warns dog owners to be careful with this “very contagious” virus, considering that most dogs lack the immunity and that they aren’t vaccinated, Miami Herald reported. Lista received the alert last week but so far, she hasn’t seen a client suspected of having canine influenza.

Symptoms of canine influenza include sneezing, runny nose, lethargy, and fever. If dog owners observe any of these symptoms, they should contact their veterinarians right away. Also, dogs suspected of carrying the virus should be kept away from other animals until they’re fully recovered. Sick pets are usually sent to be quarantined for at least four weeks.

Dogs are not born immune to canine influenza. They can get the virus easily, especially exposed to an infected area since the virus can survive for up to 24 hours. In that case, a healthy dog would likely get the disease after leaving a dog grooming salon that was visited by a sick dog, Lista explained.

Vets didn’t really recommend having dogs vaccinated against this virus because it hadn’t been confirmed, until now. Lista will start recommending vaccines not only to dog owners but also to cat owners.

Veterinarians are not the only ones who are aware of this problem. Even a local shelter is taking action to stop the problem from becoming serious. Since the canine influenza case is new, Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League, a non-profit organization serving Palm Beach County, will start giving flu shots to shelter dogs starting this weekend, CBS12 reported.

13 cases of dog flu have been reported in Florida
[Image by gilaxia/iStock]

All the dogs in the shelter will be receiving their shots to protect them from canine influenza. Fortunately, there have been no reported cases in the county, but shelter CEO Rich Anderson is not taking any chances.

“It’s a big concern because it will spread very, very quickly and we don’t know how far south it’s gotten at this point,” Anderson said.

Peggy Adams will administer flu shots to dogs that are up for adoption and will also give it to dogs brought in by its owner.

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