Flare-ups of dog flu reported; infection can be deadly

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There isn’t a central organization consistently tracking dog flu, but a group at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine is monitoring some reported cases of the infection. | STOCK.ADOBE.COM

Humans aren’t the only ones spreading flu — dogs are, too.

Dog flu or canine influenza is a highly contagious viral infection that packs many of the same nasty symptoms as human flu: fever, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and exhaustion. It was first diagnosed in 2004 and isn’t related to human flu. (So, no, you can’t catch the flu from your sick pup.)

There isn’t a central organization consistently tracking dog flu, but a group at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine is monitoring some reported cases of the infection. A surveillance map compiled by Cornell since March of 2015 shows more than 200 reports of canine influenza in Illinois, Georgia and Kentucky. The map only shows part of the spread, as many dog flu cases go undiagnosed.

“Canine flu is currently experiencing intense flare-ups in defined geographic locations,” Amy Glaser, who tracks and tests dog flu, said. “There is no current ‘national’ distribution, meaning that canine flu is not currently found everywhere in the US.”

Glaser, director of the Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory at Cornell’s Animal Health Diagnostic Center, said recent laboratory testing shows dog flu in only two regions: northern Kentucky/southern Ohio and central California.

Dog flu isn’t seasonal, said Michael San Filippo, spokesperson for the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). So, rapid spread can happen at any time of year.

It’s passed between dogs through barking, sneezing and coughing. In most cases, dog flu is nothing to worry about. San Filippo said the main difference between dog flu and human flu is an upset stomach. Most dogs with the flu will not vomit or have diarrhea. The infection usually lasts two to three weeks. But, some cases have been fatal.

Less than 10 percent of pets who have the flu die, AVMA reports. Although, San Filippo said that percentage could actually be closer to 5 percent, but deaths aren’t closely tracked.

Pet owners concerned about dog flu in their area can talk to their veterinarian about a vaccine.

“Vaccination may not all together prevent an infection, but it may reduce the severity and duration of clinical illness,” according to the AVMA.

Ashley May, USA TODAY

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