A rare dog flu has presented itself in the Capital Region and has one veterinarian recommending a vaccination for the disease.
About a week ago, a mixed-breed rescue dog from New York City that was adopted by a Capital Region family tested positive for canine influenza. The sometimes fatal disease is extremely rare for this area. It was first recognized in 2004 at dog shelters in Florida.
The local case was identified by Dr. Stephanie Todd of Harmony Veterinary Clinic in Ballston. It was one of her clients who adopted the dog.
Todd’s client had adopted two dogs, both of which presented a form of the disease. It can superficially be diagnosed as “kennel cough,” a minor but highly contagious disease that is treated with antibiotics.
One of her dogs coughed for three weeks without getting worse. The second dog, despite being on antibiotics, became lethargic and kept getting sicker.
“I knew from the literature to be on the lookout for dogs that looked like kennel cough but developed pneumonia,” Todd said. That was the case here. She diagnosed the influenza about 10 days ago after listening to the dog’s lungs.
The treatment for dog flu includes antibiotics, fluids and oxygen. In this case, the diagnosed dog is doing well. She said the disease can be most serious for dogs with short muzzles, like bulldogs, which have trouble dealing with respiratory illnesses.
Apparently no other dogs have contracted the disease locally from the confirmed patient, which was quarantined after its diagnosis. It had arrived at the local kennel after it could no longer spread the virus. The disease does not spread well in the air but can easily be transmitted by contact through bodily fluids, like when two dogs share a water dish. “It’s been considered a shelter disease,” said Todd, noting the ease of spreading in that environment.
Previously the disease had been concentrated in Denver and New York City, with sporadic occurrences elsewhere. “It’s rare in this area,” Todd said.
Because of the recent case, her clinic is recommending clients have their dogs vaccinated for the illness. In particular, they’re recommending that owners who travel with their dogs get a vaccination.
Todd noted that an influx of hurricane rescues from New York City means the disease could be traveling to the region on its own. “People have such great hearts by taking these hurricane rescues into their homes,” she said, “but we need to take every precaution now as a result.”
Before this latest case, a vaccination for canine influenza was something her clinic was considering recommending, but had not yet felt was necessary.
At this point, Todd said there is no reason to believe that humans can catch this disease, which actually originated as an equine illness.