A recent cluster of canine influenza cases in San Francisco has triggered unsubstantiated reports that the dog flu has spread nationwide.
The dog flu is real, but there's no evidence that it's spreading across the country, according to experts at the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.
"We don’t have the (dog flu) virus spreading across the country like the human flu, where everyone gets infected. The virus infects dogs in a city and tends to die out over a few months," said Colin Parrish, a professor in canine virology at Cornell.
The dog flu reportedly first showed up in the early 2000s in the United States. Parrish recounted that in 2015 a cluster of dog flu spread in Chicago from Korean rescue dogs. Last year, there were multiple outbreaks connected to a strain that surfaced in Georgia, Northern Florida, Kentucky, Texas and Minnesota.
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The dog flu is not seasonal like human flu. It can infect dogs year-round and spreads through direct contact from one dog to another, or by sneezing and coughing. The virus does not infect humans.
"There is nothing unusual in the present Bay Area outbreak. Even if it is a different virus from Asia, there’s no evidence that it’s unusually problematic or causing diseases beyond similar viruses that spread in other regions," Parrish said.
Experts say the influenza virus gets into an area, such as a shelter or kennel, may travel with a dog, then it dies out after a few months. Symptoms include coughing and elevated temperature, Parrish said.
There's no medication for the dog flu, but there is an effective vaccine that can be administered before the animal contracts the virus. The vaccine will reduce the severity of the symptoms.
AVMA spokesman Michael San Filippo said pet owners may want to talk to their vet, or stay away from dog parks or doggy day cares if concerned.
"I do not feel like we are in the midst of a large outbreak that pet owners need to be concerned about," said San Filippo.