It's been a terrible flu season for humans, but it hasn't been much better for dogs. After growing concern over the highly contagious Canine Influenza Virus, Leashes and Leads in Byron hosted a dog flu forum featuring a panel of local veterinarians and a representative from a vaccine company, Thursday.
"It's always better to prevent than to treat a disease," said Dr. Jennifer Watson, Veterinarian at Heritage Pet Hospital. "This is out there, and luckily we haven't had any outbreaks, but it's important to know what to do to prevent that outbreak."
The audience's biggest concern was how to recognize the dog flu symptoms and what preventative measures they can take to protect their dogs. If your dog shows symptoms like coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, or lethargy, pet health experts recommend visiting the vet.
Dogs in close contact with infected dogs in places such as kennels, groomers, day care facilities and shelters are at higher risk of infection.
The dog flu can also be spread indirectly through objects such as food and water bowls or people that have been in contact with infected dogs. Pet health professionals say it is important to clean and disinfect objects and areas that have been in contact with an infected dog.
"There were some actual diagnosed cases of the dog flu, they were isolated cases that happened in the Minneapolis and Saint Paul area," said Dr. Watson. "Luckily, those cases were adequately treated and quarantined so that we didn't have an outbreak in Rochester."
There are two strains of canine influenza virus identified in the United States: H3N8 and H3N2. The H3N8 strain was first identified in 2004 following an outbreak of severe respiratory illness at a Greyhound racing facility in Florida, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association The H3N2 influenza was discovered in the United States in 2015 after dogs in the Chicago area suffered from respiratory illness. Previously, reports of the H3N2 strain were restricted to some countries in Asia.