BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Some local veterinarians are beginning to see a rise in cases of canine influenza after the holidays, and they’re urging dog owners to get their pets vaccinated.
“It would not surprise me that in the next couple weeks, there’s a little influx in symptoms and cases, and then, it will hopefully settle back down again,” said Dr. Amy Tate, a veterinarian at Riverview Animal Clinic.
Last summer, vet clinics and shelters across Birmingham were overwhelmed with an outbreak of the highly contagious virus, forcing the Birmingham Humane Society to temporarily suspend adoptions. While the current situation is not to that degree yet, local vets encouraged vigilance before cases can creep back up.
“Dogs don’t have any natural immunity, so it really went just kind of like wildfire [last summer] … We had our PPE on and everything, and we were out in the parking lot trying to avoid bringing [dogs] in unless they were really sick,” Tate said.
The telltale signs of the virus are a persistent cough with discharge, a runny nose and lethargy.
“Kind of like, a goose honky type cough that they have that keeps everybody up over the night … clear and thick and foamy and stringy [discharge] that is usually from the airway,” Tate said.
An increase in boarding before Christmas is to blame for the most recent cases. The virus is so contagious just one infected dog could easily become 100.
“The droplets can stay active on the ground, bowls for a long period of time … Anywhere [dogs] can be within 25 feet of each other, they’re at risk,” Tate said.
If your dog gets canine flu, you should quarantine them for about three weeks before they can be around other dogs. Also, Tate pointed out, canine flu can’t be spread to human beings.
However, in some situations, the virus could lead to something worse.
“The younger dogs or the older dogs are ones that we have seen that have developed full-blown secondary bacterial pneumonia as a result of the influenza and needed hospitalization,” Tate said.
She re-emphasized the best way to fight canine flu is to get the two-dose annual vaccine because the virus is likely here to stay.