1. Health

No reports of dog flu in Tampa Bay, but another virus could pose threat

Eight-week-old phantom poodle Totoy yawns while sitting on a table during Dog Days in Dade City in March 2017. [Times files]
Eight-week-old phantom poodle Totoy yawns while sitting on a table during Dog Days in Dade City in March 2017. [Times files]
Published Jan. 23, 2018

A nasty strain of the flu is sweeping the country and the CDC reports that deadly cases have increased in nearly every region of the United States. To make matters worse, your pets are also at risk of catching their own flu.

But while Humane Society of Tampa Bay spokeswoman Nash McCutchen said there have been no reports of dog flu at area animal hospitals or shelters — despite a widespread outbreak in other parts of the nation — she warned of another illness that could plague pets.

As the weather warms when spring approaches, cases of canine parvovirus begin to spread, she said. Dogs that have not been vaccinated are especially at risk.

"Parvovirus is a very nasty illness that can lead to death," McCutchen said. "Without the vaccine, if the virus is caught early it can be treated, but it is a very costly treatment."

A parvovirus vaccine is provided annually as part of a routine vaccination schedule, she said.

The illness mainly attacks the digestive system. Primary symptoms are vomiting or blood in the dog's fecal matter.

She also suggests spaying or neutering before mating season starts in spring.

McCutchen warned of parvovirus as other parts of the country are dealing with an outbreak of dog flu.

According to Newsweek, the illness — also known as canine influenza — has spread to more than 36 states, including Florida.

Dog flu, is highly contagious. Nearly every dog that comes in contact with the virus will become infected. Eighty percent of the dogs exposed will show symptoms of the infection, the other 20 percent may not exhibit signs but can spread the virus, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

The flu is spread through respiratory secretion, which includes coughing, sneezing and barking. Dogs in close proximity are more susceptible, so kennels, groomers, doggie day-cares and shelters are at risk of an outbreak, according to the AVMA.

The virus could also infect cats, but there is no proof that any strain of the dog flu virus could be transmitted to humans.

To date, there have been no reported cat deaths due to canine influenza, according to the AVMA.

There is no discernible season for dog flu and infections can happen any time of year, the AVMA reports. The most common sign of the flu is a cough that lasts 10-21 days, especially if it persists despite treatment with antibiotics and cough suppressants.

Dog flu often resembles kennel cough and other symptoms of influenza can include discharge from the nose and eyes, sneezing, lethargy and anorexia. Dogs with severe infections could develop a high fever.

Most dogs recover but deaths from the infection have been reported. The recovery time takes between 2-3 weeks. Dogs infected with the virus should be isolated for up to four weeks.

You can help protect your furry best friend by disinfecting food bowls, leashes and collars, and any other items that the pup comes in contact with, according to the AVMA. Wash your hands often as soon as you arrive home, especially if you've been near other dogs.