A rare dog flu outbreak has hit Philadelphia. More and more pets across the city are reportedly getting sick as the virus continues to spread.
According to Stephen Cole, a veterinarian with the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, dogs getting upper respiratory infections are not uncommon. However, there’s been an alarming spike in canine influenza cases in the area in the last month or so.
Cole told Action News that the sudden rise in infections has many dog owners worried for their pets, adding that canine influenza is highly transmissible.
“Canine influenza is considerably more infectious and transmissible than the typical bacteria viruses that we see, causing upper respiratory and tract infections in dogs. That’s why it’s more concerning,” Cole said.
One of the concerned pet owners, Mary Dandrea, admitted she’s worried about taking her pet to the dog park amid the outbreak.
“Honestly, that makes me want to leave the dog park. I’m a little concerned about that,” she said, as quoted by Action News.
Local veterinarians first noticed the trend in early January. They said the virus responsible for the outbreak can mirror symptoms of “kennel cough.”
In an Instagram post shared earlier this month, the Companion Pet Hospital shared the signs and symptoms to watch out for in pet dogs.
“Most dogs will experience 10 to 14 days of runny nose and coughing, but there is a significant subset of those dogs that will progress to pneumonia that can be very life-threatening,” the animal hospital wrote.
“The signs of this illness in dogs are cough, runny nose, fever, lethargy, eye discharge and reduced appetite, but not all dogs will show signs of illness. The severity of illness associated with canine flu in dogs can range from no signs to severe illness resulting in pneumonia and sometimes death,” it added.
In the past years, vets only recorded one or two cases of this type of infection. Cole told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the recent uptick is “abnormal.”
“Influenza, at least in our region, has been pretty rare, and the concern is that it is so much more both transmissible and infectious [than kennel cough],” he told the outlet.
Companion Pet Hospital assured that humans can’t get sick from canine influenza. However, local vets said it is important to keep dogs away from each other to avoid more transmissions.
There is also a vaccine available, but Cole said it’s been on backorder in some locations. He urged pet owners to speak with their local vet about its availability.