Canine influenza is on the rise in the DC region

Canine influenza cases have been reported by a high number of veterinary practices in Montgomery County and the greater D.C. region. So, how can you make sure your dog doesn't get sick?

The Montgomery County Office of Animal Services (OAS) says canine influenza is a respiratory disease that is caused by a specific strain of the Type A influenza virus and is highly contagious.

The symptoms of canine influenza are cough, runny nose, eye discharge, fever, lethargy and poor appetite. The signs range in severity between no signs at all and severe illness sometimes resulting in death.

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Canine influenza is thought to spread in aerosol respiratory droplets and contaminated surfaces. It is not transmissible to people. However, people can spread the virus to dogs via their clothing, equipment or hands.

Pet owners who suspect their dog may have canine influenza should contact their veterinarian immediately for assessment and early supportive treatment. 

If a dog is diagnosed with canine influenza, that dog should be separated from other animals for at least 28 days. Infected dogs should not go to dog parks, doggy daycare, grooming and boarding facilities.

Most dogs recover within two to three weeks, but some may develop secondary bacterial infections leading to more severe illness.

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There is a canine influenza vaccine available, but it is not considered a core vaccine for all dogs. OAS advises, with the current cases occurring in the region, that dog owners speak with their veterinarian about having their dog vaccinated.

Dogs that do visit dog parks, doggy daycare or who are boarded when their owners are traveling are more at risk for canine influenza.

While the vaccine may not stop a dog from contracting the virus completely, it will lessen the severity and help reduce the spread.

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Additional precautions that dog owners can take to keep their pet safe include:

  • Limit direct contact with other dogs when on walks. Do not allow them to sniff one another.
  • Avoid using shared toys or dishes.
  • Consider skipping daycare, boarding, grooming facilities and dog parks.
  • Contact the dog’s daycare or boarding facility and ask about recent cases and cleaning protocols.

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