GENESEE COUNTY — A highly contagious outbreak of canine influenza is on the rise throughout Michigan.
As of Aug. 27, 130 confirmed cases of the virus have been reported in the state, including five in Genesee County.
According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), the state’s first case of canine influenza was reported on July 13. Since then, the disease has spread rapidly in southeastern Michigan, with Oakland County reporting 42 cases alone. Macomb County (29), Kent County (18) and Ottawa County (13) have also seen a sharp spike in influenza reports.
While Genesee County has witnessed only a handful of cases by comparison, many local veterinarians and kennel owners are taking extra measures to protect the animals under their care.
“We’re requiring all dogs that come onto our property to have the canine influenza vaccine,” said Sharon Keillor, owner of Key-Lore Kanine Kountry Klub. “We are also taking sanitizing measures.”
Thus far, there have been no confirmed reports of the virus in Flushing.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) defines the canine influenza virus (CIV) as a highly contagious viral infection that affects dogs and cats but not humans. Symptoms include coughing, lethargy, fever, loss of appetite and a runny nose. In rare cases, the infection can develop into pneumonia, or even result in death.
As an airborne strain, CIV is spread primarily through barking, coughing and sneezing. Pets in close contact with the virus are at an increased risk of contracting it, especially in kennels, shelters and day care facilities.
For her part, Keillor has been contacting veterinarians, talking with clients and posting info on social media about the virus. She said that canine influenza’s highly contagious nature poses perhaps the biggest problem for pet owners.
“The bad part about the virus is that it can live on clothing for up to 24 hours,” she said. “A dog can also be contagious before showing signs of being infected, and stay contagious for two to three weeks.”
Keeping dogs at home, Keillor said, won’t necessarily protect them, because people can act as carriers and spread the flu to their pets.
“Vaccination is the best answer,” she said. “If more dogs are vaccinated, the less the virus will spread.”
Keillor also said that sanitizers such as Lysol and OdoBan will easily kill the virus on surfaces and clothing.
Several veterinary clinics in the Flushing area carry a canine influenza vaccine, including Riverside Veterinary Hospital and the Flushing Animal Hospital. Zoetis Animal Health and Merck Animal Health also manufacture a combination vaccination that will protect against both strains of the virus (H3N2 and H2N8).
If your dog is showing signs of canine influenza, contact your veterinarian. Canine influenza is reportable to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Confirmed cases should be reported to MDARD at 800-292-3939.