NEW ORLEANS – Everyone knows the flu can make you miserable for many days, and it is even deadly to thousands each year. But now, officials are seeing the spread of a new strain of dog flu in Louisiana.
“The newer one, H3N2, popped up recently in May in north Louisiana,” Louisiana SPCA Community Clinic Veterinarian Dr. Adrianna Smith said.
Smith said veterinarians believe some dogs got infected at a dog show, possibly in Florida, then brought the flu back to Louisiana. Smith said the virus has not been seen in the New Orleans area.
Smith said there is some good news: the newer strain is milder than other strains that have been around in other states in the past 10 years. But, the newer strain is still highly contagious for dogs meeting at parks, kennels, grooming parlors and dog shows.
“There have been no cases of this jumping from dog to people,” Smith said. “The one concerning thing is, with this new flu, H3N2, it can go dog to cat.”
Smith said dog owners can transmit the flu to other dogs and cats. While it won’t make people sick with typical flu symptoms, it will make a pet feel lousy.
“Most commonly with the mild form, these dogs will have a soft cough,” Smith said. “They’ll be kind of lethargic, achy. They may have a mild fever. They might not want to eat at all.”
But it can also progress to serious symptoms that need medical intervention, medications or hospitalization. Smith said some dogs can progress to pneumonia due to a secondary bacterial infection.
Smith says there are vaccines for both the older and newer strains, but your dog may not have gotten it at his annual exam. She says owners should check with their veterinarians. Dogs can get the vaccine as young as eight weeks old. They will also need a booster two to four weeks later.
There is also no dog flu season, and pets can be infected at any time of the year.