Health officials have confirmed more than a dozen cases of “dog flu” in Florida, where they say the H3N2 canine influenza was spreading among animals at two dogs shows.
The University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine officials said Wednesday that the dogs testing positive for the flu were either at a Perry, Georgia, dog show from May 19-21 or the Deland, Florida, dog show the following weekend — or were exposed to dogs that had been at those shows.
Marianne Mccullough is a dog lover with a healthy furry family, but she personally witnessed the effects of canine influenza at the Perry dog show.
"Supposedly some people heard a dog or two coughing in the grooming area," she said.
Mccullough says her friend's English sheepdog is one of the 12 dogs that tested positive.
"Several of the dogs did come down sick that were at the Perry show but many didn't," Mccullough said. "I mean they were probably 1,200 dogs there and a couple of dogs got sick."
Rossana Passaniti of the University of Florida said there have been no dog deaths reported at UF veterinary hospitals and all dogs being treated are in stable condition. The mortality rate for dog flu is low and most dogs recover at home without any complications.
The virus does not appear to affect humans, but is highly contagious in dogs, according Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Symptoms of the virus include sneezing, nasal discharge, frequent couching, decreased appetite and lethargy during the first few days of infection. Symptoms can last for two weeks and be contagious for longer.
“Dog flu” can have more serious consequences in some dogs, leading to pneumonia that requires hospital care, according to the college. The virus can also cause respiratory infections in cats.
"I hope it doesn't spread and I guess I'm curious about like how it spreads and what to do to protect my dog," said Heather Bernardy.
Dog owners with pets exhibiting symptoms are strongly advised to call their veterinarian before taking their pet in for treatment to avoid spreading the contagion.
Vaccines do exist for dog flu, and a 21-day quarantine is recommended for dogs with H3N2 strain.
“Dog flu” is more common among dogs with social lifestyles, including dogs in boarding kennels, day care centers, shelters and dog shows. The risk is lower for canines who mostly stay at home and don’t interact with other dogs as often.
The H3N2 was first detected in South Korea in 2007 before making its way to the United States in 2015, spreading across several states in the midwest and North Texas. A severe outbreak in Chicago affected an estimated 1,000 dogs.
It is the first time H3N2 has been confirmed in Florida.