CHARLOTTE, NC (Bruce Henderson/The Charlotte Observer) - Veterinarians are urging dog owners to take precautions after highly contagious canine influenza killed two dogs in North Carolina and is suspected of sickening others.
The sick dogs are apparently linked to dog shows last month in DeLand, Fla., and Perry, Ga. The dead dogs were from the Raleigh area and North Carolina's coast.
No cases have been reported in the Charlotte area, and sickened dogs usually recover from the flu. But because the virus spreads so easily, local vets, kennel owners and shelters are on high alert.
"This is not a time to panic, not a time to be overly concerned, but it is a time to be prudent," said veterinarian Jim Dobies, who owns UrgentVet Pet Clinic in Belmont and Fort Mill, S.C.
Dobies recommends that healthy dogs be vaccinated. Dogs suspected of having the flu should be isolated from other dogs, experts say, and their vets consulted. Healthy dogs must be kept away from sick ones.
Symptoms include coughing, lethargy, nasal discharge and fever and can mimic the highly contagious but nonfatal disease known as kennel cough. Canine flu can be tough to diagnose, Dobies said, because tests can reveal it only in a narrow window of time and can't be confirmed in-house.
Suspected cases have swept through the dog world since the flu was identified in Chicago in 2015, the American Kennel Club says. North Carolina reported 225 suspected cases that year. The AKC says recent outbreaks have been reported in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina and Texas.
The state agriculture department's Animal Welfare Section is closely monitoring vets, kennels, doggie daycare businesses and shelters. Dog owners can up-to-date reports at www.ncagr.gov/vet/aws/canineflu/index.htm.
Dr. Patricia Norris, who heads the section, said that in addition to two dead dogs, a cluster of suspected cases have been reported in coastal counties and a couple have been reported in the Raleigh-Durham area. One dog in Davidson County, northeast of Charlotte, was at the Florida dog show and is under quarantine.
Norris advises owners who suspect their dogs are sick to keep them from even casual contact with other dogs, such as at dog parks or greenways. Healthy dogs should be safe in such places, she said, but owners should be cautious.
Concerned dog owners should call their vet, Norris said. Vaccines are advisable in some cases but not in others, she said, depending on the dog's circumstances.