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Highly Contagious Dog Flu Spreading In Michigan; Vets Report Big Increase In Cases

August 02, 2018 - 5:36 pm
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LANSING (WWJ) - The state is seeing a big uptick of in cases of a highly contagious dog influenza virus. 

According to State Veterinarian Dr. James Averil, there have been 49 confirmed cases of dog flu across Michigan this year -- including in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. That's up from a total of only seven cases in the state in 2017.

Averill believes one reason behind the increase is that more and more people are taking their pets to doggie day care.

The virus, he explained, is transferred from dog to dog. 

"Just like us, in humans, there are individuals or dogs that you may not know that they're sick or that they have the influenza virus," Averill said. "So be proactive, and if your dog is not feeling well or not acting normal, leave it at home. 

Vets say symptoms of dog flu can include lack of appetite, lethargy, cough and fever.  The viral infection is spread through barking, coughing, and sneezing when pets are in close contact with infected animals. It often spreads through kennels, dog shelters, groomers, as well as at daycare centers.

Most dogs recover within two to three weeks. However, if it’s not treated properly, the dog flu comes with a 10 percent mortality rate, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, and dogs of any breed, age, sex or health status are at risk. Some infected dogs may not show any signs of illness, but can still be contagious and able to infect other dogs. 

The virus can can infect cats, too, and there are strains of the flu that can be transferred from animals to human.

However: "This strain that we're seeing in dogs, we're not really seeing human cases associated with it," Averil said. "But out of an abundance of precaution we do urge pet owners to be washing their hands regularly and avoid the tongue licking and kissing of the face and so forth when they (pets) are not feeling good."

A dog flu vaccine is available; but not all dogs need it, so ask your vet. 

[Learn more: Canine Influenza: Pet Owners’ Guide].

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