Dog Flu Spikes Vet Visits As Pet Parents Seek Canine Flu Shots

When Los Gatos Dog & Cat Hospital sent an email blast to dog owners last week warning about the spread of canine influenza in the South Bay, pet parents responded immediately. According to veterinarians at the local clinic, both strains of canine influenza—H3N2 and H3N8—are considered highly contagious among the canine population.

dog and vet

“Dogs at risk include those who have been to doggie daycare, dog parks, boarding facilities, pet food stores, groomers or other places where dogs congregate,” Dr. Nicolette Zarday wrote in an email.

A dog with either flu strain may have a fever and be lethargic, or experience loss of appetite, runny nose, coughing and/or vomiting. Dogs exhibiting those symptoms should be isolated from other dogs, Zarday warned.

Zarday of VCA Animal Hospital in Los Gatos added, “Most cases resolve without intervention.”

It’s believed the canine flu began to spread over the holidays when many dogs were boarded for extended periods.

Los Gatos Dog & Cat treated a few dog flu patients last week, but Veterinary Technician Sandi Broeland said this is the first outbreak she’s witnessed since coming to work at the hospital 26 years ago.

“We fielded about 300 calls and tested about 15 dogs late last week,” Broeland said. “One doggie daycare in San Jose had so many sick dogs, they closed down.”

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According to NBC Bay Area, two flu cases were reported recently at We Dog Care in San Jose’s Willow Glen neighborhood. While it’s not known if that’s where the outbreak started, the doggie daycare and boarding facility is closed until Jan. 22, a voicemail recording explained, to minimize the spread. When We Dog Care reopens, new dogs will only be accepted if they have been vaccinated and old clients have until March 1 to vaccinate their pets.

Meantime, the concern about contamination was so great that Los Gatos Dog & Cat created a drive-through service area to accommodate the demand for canine flu shots.

“We don’t want them coming into the hospital, so the drive-through minimizes exposure,” Broeland said. “They get a cookie, a vaccine, and go home. We’re billing the owners later.”

A canine flu shot costs $38.75, Broeland said.

Veterinary technician Sandi Broeland administers a flu shot to French bulldog Sarge. When Los Gatos Dog & Cat Hospital sent out an email blast that the dog flu was spreading through the South Bay, so many clients called for flu vaccine appointments that a drive-through area was set up outside to minimize exposure. Late last week, Veterinary Technician Sandi Broeland was vaccinating a dog every 10 minutes, all day long.  (George Sakkestad/Staff Photographer)
VCA  Animal Hospital started running low on vaccines last Friday, so they ordered six more flats of 25 vaccines.

Adobe Animal Hospital’s Operations Manager Christina Freeman said, “We’ve done a lot of testing for canine influenza, but we’ve only confirmed one case and that was at our Los Altos hospital.”

Dr. Hilary Wheeler, who owns the Whole Pet Vet, said she’s been seeing a lot of cases of a kennel cough.

“Kennel a cough is a bit different from canine influenza,” Wheeler said. “The dog flu is similar to what people get. My feeling on it is I don’t worry about open-air contact; it’s the indoor air they’re breathing.”

That’s why many doggie daycares are now requiring that all their clients’ dogs be vaccinated against the canine flu.

And although the dog flu can’t spread to humans, people can spread it to other dogs.

“People can transmit it to their dog if they’ve petted an infected dog,” Wheeler warned. “It’s less common but it can happen, usually through nasal secretions.”

Cats can get the dog flu, too, but the Los Gatos pet hospitals said they haven’t had any cat cases. Flu symptoms in cats include nasal discharge, congestion, malaise, lip-smacking and excessive salivation. The American Veterinary Medical Association says there is no flu vaccine approved for cats.

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