VERO BEACH – An outbreak of the dog flu has hit Florida for the first time. The dog flu is a contagious virus that infected at least a dozen dogs in Florida, according to the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
“Veterinarians in central and north Florida are treating many dogs that are suspected to have dog flu. All dogs being treated are in stable condition. Common symptoms of dog flu include sneezing, nasal discharge, and frequent coughing. If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, please call your pet’s veterinarian before taking your pet in for treatment,” the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine said in a statement.
The virus strain is not known to be transmitted to humans, but the highly contagious dog flu can spread rapidly. As of today, there are no known cases in Indian River County or surrounding counties.
A spokesman for the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) said they don’t want people to panic because typically the virus is usually mild, but it’s important to catch symptoms early.
The dog flu, also known as canine influenza, is a respiratory disease that can spread among dogs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The flu symptoms are similar to what humans experience, including coughing, runny nose and fever. Some dogs can suffer from life-threatening pneumonia.
The CDC said there are two different viruses, including the latest H3N2 virus, which was first detected in dogs in the U.S. in 2015. At the time, more than 1,000 illnesses were reported in Illinois and nearby states. At least six cases were fatal.
The virus hit Florida after at least 12 dogs were recently diagnosed with canine influenza after either attending two dog shows or being exposed to infected animals from the events.
The flu appears to have stemmed from two dog shows late this month in Perry, Ga. and another in Deland, Fla.
All dogs being treated for the flu are in stable condition, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
This is the first time H3N2 canine influenza has been found in the state, health officials said.
Dog owners can discuss whether their pets should be vaccinated for the virus with their Indian River County veterinarian. Dogs are at the highest risk of contracting the flu at animal shelters, boarding kennels, grooming salons, canine daycare, dog parks and other locations where the animals are in close quarters.