Veterinarians across the Triangle are taking different approaches to addressing canine flu, as increasing numbers of worried dog owners try to get their pets vaccinated.
Many animal hospitals and clinics have received numerous calls and visitors about canine flu in the past few days. The flu caused the death of one dog in Raleigh and has been reported about a dozen times across the state.
Veterinarians are taking different tactics when it comes to vaccinating dogs. The main issue, several vets said, is that protecting dogs involves both a vaccine and a booster shot – a process that takes three to four weeks to be effective.
Some veterinarians, such as Dr. Joseph Gordon at Care First Animal Hospital on Oberlin Road, are urging people to consider whether their dogs are truly at risk before getting vaccinated. Gordon said he usually recommends the vaccine for dogs that are in dog shows or come in regular contact with lots of other dogs. The current canine flu outbreak was first reported at dog shows in Florida and Georgia.
“We’re asking dog owners to evaluate their situation” before coming in for the vaccine, Gordon said.
Other vets, such as Raleigh Community Animal Hospital’s Teresa Danford, say they’ve been encouraging people to be proactive and get the vaccine since the first reports of canine flu in Florida several weeks ago.
“We could be overreacting and it could never really turn into much, but the problem is you never know,” Danford said. “So if you wait until there’s an actual outbreak, you’re completely behind the eight ball.”
Danford said there is no way of knowing whether canine flu will spread. The virus spreads through contact between dogs and can travel on humans for up to 24 hours, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Dogs can carry and spread canine flu despite not showing symptoms, and can transmit the flu before and after symptoms are present, allowing it to spread quickly, Danford said.
“We are a very pro dogs-in-public place,” she said. “So if someone takes a dog that’s still sneezing out virus to a local pub and the dog sneezes on everyone else that’s there, they take it home to their dog.”
Still, Gordon said it’s important for dog owners not to overreact if dogs begin to display some symptoms of canine flu, since those symptoms can have many causes. The key symptom to look for, he said, is fever.
Canine flu usually subsides after a week or two if owners simply manage their dogs’ symptoms, Gordon said. He said the risk of more serious harm comes if dogs develop a co-existing disease, such as pneumonia.
Phone lines have been busy with questions about canine flu at Gordon and Danford’s clinics, as well as at other animal hospitals in the region. Several report ordering more vaccine to meet the growing demand.
Lisa Milano, head receptionist at Armadale Animal Hospital in Raleigh, said she has been fielding calls for several days from concerned pet owners.
“People are really responding and being proactive,” Milano said.
Sam Killenberg: 919-829-4582
Does Fido have the flu?
Symptoms of canine flu include coughing, lethargy, loss of appetite, discharge from the nose and eyes, and fever. Owners whose dogs show symptoms should isolate them from other dogs and call their veterinarian immediately, experts say.
Symptoms typically last 2 to 3 weeks, during which time owners should care for their dogs and keep them as comfortable as possible. Dogs displaying more severe symptoms can receive medication to treat the condition.
Learn more about canine flu here: cvm.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/CanineInfluenzaHandout.pdf.
Keep up to date on the spread of the virus in North Carolina here: www.ncagr.gov/vet/aws/canineflu