Dog flu in SoCal: Holiday gatherings could increase spread of canine influenza, experts say

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Canine influenza, also known as the dog flu, is spreading fast in Southern California and experts warn holiday reunions and boarding may lead to an even bigger increase in virus infection.

Almost all dogs are susceptible to canine flu infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and virus infection tends to spread among dogs housed in kennels and shelters, which isn’t good as many pet owners kick off the holidays.

“There’s currently an outbreak in Los Angeles that’s bigger than the outbreak that happened in 2017,” said Madeline Bernstein, the president of the spcaLA. “The theory right now is that because of the holidays and dogs going into daycare and boarding and flying, you know, maybe perhaps with other dogs coming for holiday things, it could definitely continue to spread pretty rapidly.”

Owner of the Shabby Dog in Sierra Madre Sandy Duvall told Eyewitness News she’s witnessed the impact of a dog flu outbreak and said it’s not something pet owners should take lightly.

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Duvall said after COVID-19 affected her staff, in September, the dog flu caught she and her team by surprise.

To help keep her dogs safe, Duvall now requires all dogs at her facilities to be vaccinated against canine influenza and leptospirosis.

“I keep saying L.A. County, but it’s Orange County. It’s everywhere,” she said. “I have another facility in the desert, in Cathedral City, Shabby Dog Palm Springs, and it’s just now hitting out there.”

The vaccine requires dogs to receive two shots about a month apart. To treat canine influenza, the CDC recommends keeping the dog hydrated and comfortable while its body then mounts an immune response to the infection to facilitate recovery.

Since masks aren’t quite an option in this case, dog owners can practice social distancing with their pets and not let them share food bowls or toys.

Experts also recommend keeping them away from other dogs who may be experiencing symptoms, which include sneezing, coughing, wheezing and discharge.

A dog flu Infection can last 10 days and though it’s not common, dogs can die from the virus.

“It’s bad, like I said, if they’re older dogs or puppies, sometimes they don’t make it through it,” Duvall said.

The CDC says in general, canine influenza viruses are thought to pose a low threat to people. To date, there is no evidence of spread of the dog flu from dogs to people and there has not been a single reported case of human infection with a canine influenza virus in the U.S. or worldwide.

If your dog is showing symptoms, it’s best to keep them home to prevent further spread and contact your veterinarian if symptoms are serious.

“In a dog with a compromised immune system, it can be very, very serious or a dog with respiratory problems, so what you want to do is talk to a veterinarian before you get the vaccine to make sure that your dog would not be susceptible to a rare side effect and if it’s in the best interest of your dog based on age and medical history,” Bernstein said.

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