Florida's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has confirmed the state has its first outbreak of a highly infectious strain of dog flu, which surfaced in the United States in 2015.
Veterinarians at the University of Florida has so far treated seven dogs since last week. They are also waiting for the results of another six. Several of the dogs need to be hospitalized but are now in stable condition, Florida's chief veterinarian Michael Short said.
H3N2 canine influenza virus (H3N2 CIV) is an influenza virus that infects dogs. The flu may not always be deadly to canines and does not spread to humans, but it can spread to cats. It may also progress to pneumonia if left untreated.
"At least seven cases have been confirmed as H3N2, canine influenza virus. All the treated dogs are in stable condition but several have been hospitalized," Florida's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said in a statement.
Warning To Pet Owners
Marta Lista of Trail Animal Hospital warned pet owners to be very careful because the illness can be very contagious, citing that most dogs do not have natural immunity to this illness.
The virus can also thrive for up to 24 hours, which means that dogs can be infected for just being exposed to an area that was visited by a sick animal.
Lista added that up until now, veterinarians do not typically recommend giving vaccines to dogs because the virus has not been confirmed. Now, vaccinations are available for all dog and cat owners and are even recommended for at-risk dogs that are traveling.
From Birds To Dogs
The virus is believed to have originally affected birds in China, Korea, and Thailand, where the illness was first detected. The American Veterinary Medical Association said that the virus may have jumped to dogs that were roaming live bird markets.
In 2015, dogs in Chicago started to get ill, and the number of infected animals reached to about a thousand as the illness spread through the Midwest.
How The Virus Spreads
The virus is typically spread by sneezing, and coughing dogs that can transmit the germs by up to 20 feet. Outbreaks tend to occur in places where animals have close contact such as in grooming parlors and kennels. Most of the dogs exposed to the virus become infected albeit only 80 percent show symptoms.
The common sign of this illness is cough that can last up to three weeks regardless of antibiotic treatment. Other symptoms include sneezing, runny noses, lethargy, and fever.
Pet owners are advised to contact their vets if they notice these symptoms and keep their sick pets away from other animals until they get treated. Sick dogs also need to be quarantined for at least one month.
"Be careful about exposing your dog to events or facilities with other dogs," the University Of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine advised. "The most important step is to vaccinate your dog against the canine influenza viruses. Just like human flu vaccines, the H3N2 CIV vaccine may not completely prevent infection but will make it less likely. "