An outbreak of canine flu across the Southeast has infected a handful of dogs in North Carolina and caused two deaths, including one in Raleigh.
Canine flu, which is spread by the highly infectious H3N2 virus, emerged this year in Florida. From there, cases have popped up in Georgia and North Carolina, believed to have been spread at dog shows.
Currently, there have been at least 10 to 12 confirmed cases of canine flu in the state, according to veterinarians.
One of the dogs who died was from Raleigh, the other from the coast, according to the Veterinary Division of the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Dr. Sandra Strong, the chief veterinarian for Wake County’s animal center, said she is not aware that the flu has spread to other area dogs.
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“It just really depends – and this is information I don’t have on this case – on, did that dog expose other dogs?” Strong said. “Just like flu for us, it’s all about exposure.”
The disease can spread rapidly; the last major outbreak, in 2015, infected approximately 1,000 dogs in Chicago.
Dr. Brenda Stevens, an associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at N.C. State University, said the virus is very contagious, spreading through contact between dogs and also traveling on humans.
“This time of year, there are a lot of dog shows, and people putting dogs in kennels for vacation,” she said. “Those are the things that we really want to stress that people be careful.”
Canine flu can infect all breeds of dog but does not infect humans. Owners worried about their pups catching the flu should avoid dog parks, doggie day cares, dog shows and kennels, Strong said.
To avoid infection, Stevens said dogs can receive vaccines protecting against H3N2 and other strains of canine flu from their veterinarian.
Dr. Richard Hawkins, who runs the Colony Park Animal Hospital in Durham, said infected dogs are able to spread the virus several days before they show symptoms.
Hawkins sent an email to his clients at the animal hospital and his dog boarding facility, warning of the risks.
“It’s not to be taken lightly,” Hawkins said – especially considering dogs have died.
Stevens at the vet school said it was important for dog owners to be extra careful and suggested all dogs get vaccinated.
“I think that people should be concerned about it, but there shouldn’t be any kind of panic,” she said. “People should do the common-sense kind of thing.”
Sam Killenberg: 919-829-4582
Does Fido have the flu?
Symptoms of canine flu include coughing, lethargy, loss of appetite, discharge from the nose and eyes, and fever. Owners whose dogs show symptoms should isolate them from other dogs and call their veterinarian immediately, experts say.
Symptoms typically last 2 to 3 weeks, during which time owners should care for their dogs and keep them as comfortable as possible. Dogs displaying more severe symptoms can receive medication to treat the condition.
Learn more about canine flu here: cvm.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/CanineInfluenzaHandout.pdf
Keep up-to-date on the spread of the virus in North Carolina here: www.ncagr.gov/vet/aws/canineflu