There are more than 1,700 cases of a “particularly virulent” strain of canine flu that is ravaging a county in Illinois, according to ABC News.
With that, veterinarians at the MSPCA’s Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston are preparing for an influx of cases that may strike New England in the coming weeks, the organization announced on Friday.
Angell has already seen one flu case at its Waltham hospital, where afive-year-old female terrier named Paris (pictured) with a hacking cough was brought in on May 3 following a family trip to Chicago. The hospital is awaiting confirmation of the exact strain, but suspects it is the same strain that has now become an epidemic in the Midwest, said the announcement. The dog is recovering at home in Watertown.
There is a vaccine for canine flu but the strain spreading across Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin and Texas—dubbed H3N2—may not be held at bay by the existing vaccine, according to the MSPCA.
“Chicago has a real outbreak on its hands and we want to do our part to prevent the spread of flu in Massachusetts,” said Dr. Virginia Sinnott of Angell’s 24-7 Emergency & Critical Care Unit, who has developed the hospital’s prevention protocol.
Dr. Sinnott is urging pet owners to avoid trips to the veterinary hospital if they believe their dog may have been exposed to the virus, specifically because dog-to-dog contact is the primary way by which the flu spreads.
“It’s the same as when we get sick and our doctor says: ‘Stay at home, rest and drink lots of water,’” she said in a release. “ However, dogs must be brought in if they’re experiencing symptoms such as vomiting, hacking cough, fever or nasal discharge. “In these cases we’re asking dog owners to come to the hospital but to keep their pets clear of all other dogs—and immediately inform our staff if their pet has been exposed to dogs in the outbreak states.”
Angell’s prevention protocol centers on the following recommendations:
1) If traveling to the outbreak states, steer clear of all dog parks, veterinary hospitals (save for emergency treatment) or other areas in which dogs assemble
2) Do not assume your dog is protected if he or she has been vaccinated against canine flu. H3N2 is a different strain, as yet there is no vaccine for it and prevention is the only surefire way to avoid infection
3) Know the primary signs of canine flu which generally include coughing, runny nose, decreased activity, decreased appetite, and generally seeming unwell. If any of these symptoms are present, call you veterinarian immediately
4) If your dog is sick seek treatment at your veterinarian’s office or Angell—but inform staff upon arrival if your dog has traveled to the outbreak states, and keep well clear of all other dogs in the waiting area(s)
Canine flu is not fatal in most cases, nor does it pose a threat to humans, cats or other pets, said the release. However, the odds of dogs contracting the illness after exposure are nearly 100 percent and, according to Dr. Sinnott, “it is a miserable experience.”
“Dogs are sick on average for 10 to 20 days and it’s extremely uncomfortable for them—on par with how we feel when we get the flu,” she said in an announcement. “No one wants to see their pet suffer through this. While we should not panic, we should be prepared and do all we can to keep our dogs from contracting the illness.”