GREAT FALLS — Nine states including California, Texas, and New Jersey are seeing an outbreak of Canine Flu. Like the flu virus in humans, dogs can experience similar symptoms, according to veterinarian Michelle Richardson of Big Sky Animal Medical Center.
“Most of the time the symptoms are mild. It might be a little lethargy, fever or loss of appetite, and a cough.”
The H3N8 strain originated from horses, mutating to become contractable in dogs while the H3N2 variants started in birds. The two are the most common forms of Canine Flu seen in the United States.
Right now, Dr. Richardson and other vets in the community report they have not submitted testing for the virus, only a form of bronchitis.
With the recent outbreak across the nation, the CDC monitoring viruses happen for a reason.
“That's why the big concern with avian influenza is that there's always that risk. The more cases they are that there's some sort of mutation that then makes it transmissible to people. And we'd be a naive population and it would spread like wildfire.”
Canine flu is transmissible between dogs and cats, unfortunately for feline companions, there is no current vaccination. Like COVID-19, elderly animals with pre-existing health conditions are more at risk of severe illness or death, versus youthful pets. Vaccination would be recommended by a vet, especially if a dog is socializing with large groups of dogs.
If an outbreak were to occur, the CDC and other experts recommend vaccination and keeping dogs away from those larger groups.
Fetch, a grooming, training, and boarding service in Great Falls, is taking every precaution to keep animals healthy within its facility.
“If for some reason a dog happens to show an illness, if they're here, the steps that we take as we quarantine that animal, we call the parents immediately we have that dog removed from our facility. We disinfect, obviously clean everything,” said Ashley Wilkinson, owner of Fetch.
Fetch is like a school, with kids together, playing and spreading germs. For any dog to utilize Fetch services, they need to have its regular vaccinations, and a “Kennel Cough” vaccination is recommended.
Right now, Dr. Richardson isn’t seeing vaccinations as a need for Montana canines yet.
“Personally, for my own dogs, I'm not vaccinating at this point. If circumstances change, I will promote it a little more aggressively.”
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