By Vincent T. Davis
20 confirmed cases seen in past month; vaccine available.
Twenty confirmed cases of canine influenza and 70 suspected cases have been recorded in San Antonio dogs within the past 30 days, according to a local veterinarian.
The disease, also known as dog flu, has also been reported in Austin and Dallas, said Dr. Michele Wright, who helped identify the virus at a local clinic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Texas is one of 38 states where dogs have been exposed to the H3N8 virus.
The first San Antonio case originated with two dogs that stopped at dog day care centers and parks, both community sites where dogs could have contracted the disease, Wright said.
Symptoms include a fever, runny nose and coughing, but some dogs infected with the virus do not show symptoms. The virus is not transmitted to humans, cats or other species. Wright said dogs shed, or transmit, the virus through secretions that expose it to the environment.
“What’s scary for me as a veterinarian is they can act and look healthy and still be shedding the virus,” Wright said.
Two tests can confirm the virus. The vaccine is available at veterinarian offices.
According to the CDC, the virus was first detected in 2004 in greyhounds. Scientists believe it jumped species from horses to dogs and adapted to cause sickness and spread among dogs.
Wright said because many local dogs haven’t been vaccinated, close to 100 percent would get the virus if exposed. Twenty percent would transmit it but not appear sick. Seventy-two percent would show mild symptoms of coughing that could linger for two to three weeks. And 8 percent could develop pneumonia that could be life threatening.
Animal Care Services director Gary Hendel said ACS has not confirmed any cases of canine influenza in the shelter.
“It’s a situation that bears watching,” Hendel said. “Should that situation change, we will work with our local veterinary community to identify solutions to prevent widespread outbreak.”
Wright suggested that pet owners vaccinate their dogs; limit visits to communal areas to prevent exposure; and keep dogs away from contaminated areas for a month after immunization, to build up immunity.
“I think if we can get people vaccinating, we’ll be able to contain the virus,” Wright said. “The hard thing is getting people to vaccinate in areas that haven’t seen it yet.”
News Researcher Kevin Frazzini contributed to this report.
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