Flu not just affecting people; H3N8 virus hitting dogs - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Flu not just affecting people; H3N8 virus hitting dogs

By Courtney Lane - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - The flu isn't just hitting humans, man's best friend is now susceptible. Dozens of dogs just became sick and one died at a shelter in Virginia from the canine flu. Health experts are testing a vaccine and keeping an eye on this highly contagious disease that is spreading to most states.

The canine flu, or H3N8 virus, originated in horses but jumped species to dogs.

It was first identified in 2004, but has now spread to nearly 30 states, including Texas.

"We haven't seen a lot of cases in Texas, but in Colorado, Florida, and New York there have been quite a few cases," said Dr. Sharon Phillips, with Tyler Veterinarian Clinic. "The majority of the time they get it from being where there are a lot of animals, like this latest outbreak was in a shelter."

She says it's important to make sure your furry friend has their vaccinations, and if you take them to a boarding kennel, make sure it's sanitized properly.

"Boarding facilities really need to make sure that if a dog comes in sneezing or coughing that they're isolated," said Phillips.

She says the flu can be deadly, though it's rare.

"A very small percentage will get pneumonia associated with it, the severe form of the flu, and that can lead to fatalities just like the occasional fatality from the flu in people."

There are tell-tale signs you need to watch for are upper respiratory conditions, which can easily spread.

"[Watch for] nasal discharge, especially if it's greenish," said Phillips. "Clear is usually not a real sign of infection. [Watch for] running a fever, especially, because that's very uncommon."

Dr. Phillips says it's good to be educated, but don't panic. 

"It really is not that wide spread yet," said Phillips. "That's not to say that's not something the veterinary community is keeping an eye on, but again kind of like with the swine flu(H1N1), don't panic. It's a work in progress. Research in progress. They're watching this new vaccine."

It's important to know this virus cannot spread to people. If you'd like to learn more about the canine flu, click here.

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