California Dog Flu Outbreak January 2018
Vets, Pet Owners Alarmed by Spread of 'dog flu' in South Bay of San Francisco
By Michelle Robertson, SFGATE Updated 6:20 pm, Thursday, January 11, 2018
It's a nasty Bay Area flu season for humans and four-legged companions alike this year.
Veterinary hospitals and kennels throughout the South Bay have reported multiple cases of canine influenza, also known as the dog flu.
"Over the past two weeks, we've seen maybe 50 cases," said Shadi Ireifej, a veterinarian at United Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Hospital in Campbell. Four of these cases have been confirmed via blood test (many owners opt out of the test due to cost).
Willow Glen Pet Hospital also confirmed it had treated 12 cases of the flu since Jan. 3. San Jose pet boarder We Dog Care told SFGATE that it would be closed through the week "to ensure every surface in the facility has been disinfected while no dogs are present."
The pups started coming into Ireifej's emergency room with symptoms similar to those found in flu-stricken humans: a hacking cough, nasal discharge, lethargy, sneezing and fever. The facility has yet to see any deaths.
"The mortality rate is pretty low," Ireifej said of the illness, the symptoms of which typically persist for three to four weeks. During that time, vets recommend dogs be kept under quarantine, away from dog parks and kennels.
Veterinarians believe that this flu is caused by two strains, H3N2 and H3N8. The latter strain was first identified in 2004 in Florida racing greyhounds, said Stefanie Wong of the Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center. H3N2 showed up in Chicago and the surrounding Midwest region in 2015.
The viruses didn't make their way to California until 2017, said veterinarian Ian Stone of Campbell's Central Animal Hospital. One case was reported in the southern part of the state and another in Sacramento.
Treatment is similar to that of humans. Most veterinarians will administer a cough suppressant to help alleviate airway irritation and sometimes an antibiotic to ward off a secondary bacterial infection, like pneumonia.
Most veterinary hospitals offer a bivalent vaccine that covers H3N2 and H3N8, but for dogs already exposed, such measures are likely moot.
"It might be worth adding to your yearly vaccination protocol," said Ireifej.
The virus affects only dogs, but it can be passed on from leashes and human clothing.
Michelle Robertson is an SFGATE staff writer. Email her at email@example.com or find her on Twitter at @mrobertsonsf.