Case of dog flu in Houston area raises concern for pet owners

Jeff Ehling Image
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Pet owners warned about dog flu
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At least one case of canine flu has been identified in the area

BAYTOWN, TX (KTRK) -- Local veterinarian offices are being warned to be on the lookout for canine influenza. Dogs can get the flu and it can be deadly and there's serious concern about an outbreak spreading.

The outbreak is raging in the Chicago area, but for the first time, a dog with the potentially deadly strain of flu has been found in Texas, in fact, right outside Houston.

The dog park is the perfect place for your furry friend to get some exercise and socialize; it is also a place they could pick up the H3N2 canine influenza virus.

"I'd be very worried if my dogs came down with the symptoms," said Jessica Fleischmann.

Jessica is a vet tech student. She has heard about H3N2 because of the ongoing outbreak in the Chicago area where it has sickened more than a thousand dogs and killed a half dozen.

Now, for the first time, the virus is in Texas. A dog near Baytown tested positive for H3N2 after its owners moved to Beach City from Chicago.

"It's really worrisome because it seemed like it was so far away and now that it is really close to home, it's scary because it can spread pretty quickly," said Fleischmann.

The infected dog went to the vet last week suffering from coughing, gagging and failure to take in food and water.

The appearance of the virus in just one dog was enough for the Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services to send a warning to veterinarian offices and kennels to be on the lookout for sick dogs and to keep kennel surfaces, water bowls, collars and leashes clean because the virus is spread through saliva.

"Clinics are going to have to very vigilant, kennels are going to have to be very vigilant, they are going to have to make sure the vaccines are ok, and when the animals come in, look at them," said Houston Vet Alice Frei.

Frei says while no vaccine is available for H3N2, a different canine flu vaccine is on the market and does offer some protection against H3N2.

Frei says dogs that are around other dogs are more likely to develop H3N2 and like in humans the very young and very old will suffer the extremes of the illness.

"The puppy was probably going to get sicker than a middle aged dog or the adult dog and the older dog of course is at much higher risk," said Frei.

Remember, your dog must be exposed to the saliva of a sick dog to get the virus. The real concern now is that this is the beginning of the summer kennel season when thousands of family dogs are boarded when their owners go away on vacation.

Ask your vet about the vaccine, ask your kennel if they've heard about the Texas case of canine flu and ask what the kennel is doing to protect dogs from getting sick.