HOMEWOOD, Ala. (WIAT) — Canine Influenza is rapidly spreading across the country and has significantly impacted Alabama for the first time.
The virus is new, discovered 17 years ago, and, unfortunately, due to recent discoveries, dogs are not immune to the virus.
H3N8 and H3N2 are the two virus strains currently in the state.
Symptoms of the virus are coughing, sneezing, and loss of appetite. Signs you’ll generally see if a dog has kennel cough.
One in five dogs with the virus will develop severe symptoms, while up to eight percent of dogs infected may die from canine influenza complications.
Most pet owners say they had never heard of the virus.
Chief Veterinarian for the Greater Birmingham Humane Society, Dr. Lindy Alverson, tells CBS 42 that this is no surprise because this is the first time Alabama has dealt with a significant canine influenza outbreak.
Pet owners say know that they know about the virus they will do everything they can to keep their dogs safe.
“It’s kind of scary knowing that there is a disease out there for animals; there are a lot of diseases out there, but hearing about it, I will be looking into it more and figuring out what the best way to keep him safe is,” dog owner Joshua Williams-Turner said.
A recent study shows that 80 to 90 percent of dogs exposed to the virus will become infected.
Ten to 20 percent of dogs will contact the virus but won’t show any symptoms.
Currently, the Greater Birmingham Humane Society’s main goal is preventing the spread of the virus to other dogs, as they have suspended dog adoptions at their shelter.
Alverson says they monitor dogs daily to see if they have the virus, but even once a dog recovers from it, it can still spread to other dogs.
“We want to see it spread; we want to see it get through all our dogs because as soon as that last dog shows symptoms, I can open back up in three weeks,” Alverson said. “It would be inconsiderate for me to release 300 dogs back into the environment knowing they have the flu.”
Alverson says the dogs with the virus at their shelter have been older or had pre-existing conditions.
Veterinarians recommend pet owners keeping dogs inside for the next three weeks to keep them safe and vaccinated.
“Stay away from where a mass of dogs congregate, such as dog parks, pet stores, and boarding facilities,” veterinarian at Caldwell Mill Animal Clinic, Dr. Andy Sokol, said. “Right now, many boarding facilities are reducing their intake or completely shutting down due to it spreading so rapidly. “
Veterinarians suggest calling ahead to see which facilities are taking dogs in at the moment if you need to leave your dog at a boarding facility.