Dog Influenza spreading in Southeast

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A precaution for dog owners: There has been a recent spread of canine influenza, including several cases here in the southeast.

Back in April, News4Jax told you about the spread of the illness in the Midwest, and just in the past few weeks more than 50 dogs have gotten the flu in the Atlanta area.

Keep an eye on your dogs because they can't talk about not feeling well like people can. That's why it's so important to pay attention to their mood and their body.

"Right now, Florida has been spared and it has spread from Chicago to Atlanta. Now we have confirmed cases of the new variety H3N2 in Atlanta. We expect it; we're just trying to be cautious ahead of time," said Dr. Bryan Flood, animal care veterinarian at Twin Lakes Center.

There have been 55 confirmed cases in Atlanta since June 25. Other positive results of canine influenza have been reported in various states, including Iowa, Indiana and Massachusetts, according to Cornell University. It hasn't made its way to Florida yet but experts believe it's likely.

So here's what dog owners need to know: two viruses, H3N8 and H3N2, cause dog flu. The H3N2 strain, responsible for the latest outbreak, is mostly found in Asia and wasn't detected in North America until April. Experts say there's no evidence of transmission from dogs to people.

"Dog parks are being criticized as sources of spread. Unfortunately, kennels boarding facilities where dogs are under stress and dogs and travel to the region come through airports in particular are of concern," said Dr. Flood.

Symptoms that dog owners need to be aware of include: runny eyes, runny nose, coughing, and sneezing.

"But it lasts longer than a brief period of kennel cough which is typically a week or two. The new flu can last up to months it could cause fever deep cough and a loss of appetite etc,." Flood said.

Treatment can be expensive that's why it's important to catch it as soon as possible. Flood says they would re-hydrate the dog and monitor them and give them antibiotics as needed.

There is a flu vaccine for dogs but it's only for the H3N8 strain -- not the H3N2 strain causing the latest outbreak. Flood says it's unknown at the time but experts are hopeful that vaccine will also work for the most recent strain.

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