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Dog flu outbreaks spiking across the US

This winter, flu – alongside other respiratory illnesses such as RSV or Covid-19 – is ravaging many areas of the United States. However, humans do not seem to be the only animals suffering from this winter’s extreme flu season. In fact, a similar virus is now causing significant outbreak in dogs, with veterinarians across the country strongly advising dog owners to vaccinate their furry companions.

Canine flu causes symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, nose and eye discharges, fever, lethargy, and sometimes trouble breathing. Although there are limited treatment options once a dog gets infected, there is a preventive vaccine that dogs at risk for catching the flu can receive from their veterinary doctors for about $25 to $35.

According to an online resource mapping the spread of this disease across the U.S., there currently are worrisome dog influenza outbreaks in nine American states, including New York, Florida, Texas, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

While veterinarians argue that not all dogs need to receive a vaccine, more social pets that are frequently interacting with other conspecifics would clearly benefit from such as vaccine. “It’s going to be somewhat specific, based on region and what they are exposed to, but, generally, dogs exposed to a lot of other dogs, dogs in doggie day care, boarding, things like that,” said Jess Fejes, the medical director of the Veterinary Emergency Group

However, if owners decide to keep their dogs unvaccinated, there are ways of preventing their pets to catch the flu. Since the virus is airborne, places where dogs congregate, such as dog parks, could be risky, particularly for unvaccinated animals.

“Canine influenza is transmitted through droplets or aerosols containing respiratory secretions from coughing, barking, and sneezing. Dogs in close contact with infected dogs in places such as kennels, groomers, day care facilities, and shelters are at increased risk of infection,” experts from the American Veterinary Medical Association explained. “Canine influenza can be spread indirectly through objects (e.g., kennels, food and water bowls, collars and leashes) or people that have been in contact with infected dogs.”

While vaccination will not always protect dogs from catching the virus, it may significantly reduce the severity and duration of the illness, thus remaining a helpful tool in stopping what for the moment remains a series of disparate outbreaks to turn into a full-blown epidemic. 

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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