Pet Health

Dog flu in Florida: Health officials confirm 7 cases of potentially deadly virus

Seven canines in Florida have been diagnosed with potentially deadly dog flu, a highly contagious virus that popped up in 10 states and infected nearly 1,000 dogs in Chicago in 2015.

In a news release Tuesday the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services confirmed the animals had the H3N2 canine influenza virus, which cannot infect humans. The canines are being treated at the University of Florida (UF) College of Veterinary Medicine, and health officials suspect six additional cases.

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Dr. Michael Short, the state's chief vet, told the Miami Herald that all of the dogs are in stable condition but several had to be hospitalized.

Despite not being spreadable to humans, the dog flu can infect cats, the Herald reported. Most cases are not fatal, but, if left untreated, the virus can progress to pneumonia. 

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The department of agriculture noted symptoms include loss of appetite, fever and lethargy. Most dogs recover within a few days without complications.

Dog owners in Florida and elsewhere can help protect their pets against the illness with vaccinations, which are not required by every veterinarian.

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The Herald reported that vets recommend infected dogs be quarantined for at least four weeks and that the live virus can live for 24 hours. When sick dogs cough or sneeze, their germs may spread up to 20 feet. Risky areas of transmission include grooming parlors and dog parks, the newspaper noted.

Because the virus is so contagious, vets advise pet owners who suspect their dog has the virus not to take their animal to the waiting room but rather through a separate entrance to avoid infecting other animals, USA Today reported.

“It’s very contagious, so you have to be careful,” Dr. Marta Lista of Trail Animal Hospital in Miami, told the Herald. “Most dogs don’t have immunity and they don’t have vaccines.”

In an interview with the Herald, UF officials declined to disclose where the Florida cases occurred.

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