GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — State officials are asking pet owners to take extra precautions after a spike in dog flu cases across Michigan.
“There is no natural immunity to this virus in the canine population, so all dogs are susceptible when they’re exposed,” Wealthy Street Animal Hospital veterinarian Dr. Sarah Privette said.
The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development says the number of confirmed cases in less than a month is nearly five-fold the total case count for last year. MDARD has tallied 49 confirmed cases of canine influenza since July 13; in comparison, state officials handled nine reports of dog flu during the entire year of 2017.
State officials say six counties are affected, including Kent and Ottawa. As of Aug. 2, Ottawa County had ten confirmed cases of dog flu and Kent County had one.
Privette theorized the spike is linked to an outbreak in Chicago in 2015 and likely spread to West Michigan as people traveled.
Dog flu symptoms include fever, lethargy, coughing, runny nose and eye discharge.
“It’s most of the time, an upper respiratory infection,” Privette said. “It can be more severe. Some dogs can get pneumonia and there can be deaths from this.”
MDARD says most cases of canine influenza are mild and affected dogs usually recover within two to three weeks. However, owners are encouraged to consult with their veterinarian if they suspect their dog has the flu and keep their pet at home and away from other dogs.
The state veterinarian says the risk of infection rises when dogs are kept together in groups.
“It’s scary,” Dawn Sutter said as she played with her dog at a park in Ottawa County. “It comes on quickly. … We’re just going to have to watch our dog.”
“I think I would be careful of how many times I might come here,” Randy Tiesman said at the same park.
“It’s something I’ll look for. If I see other people’s dogs that seem symptomatic, then I’ll remove my dogs,” dog owner Erin Moriarty said at a Kent County park.
Dog boarding facilities should turn away any pets that are sick, clean their areas thoroughly and make sure pets that stay are vaccinated for influenza. Confirmed cases of canine influenza should be reported to MDARD by calling 800.292.3939.
“There is a vaccine that prevents against it,” Privette said. “The vaccine, it has to be boostered. So you get the first vaccine and three to four weeks later, you get the second vaccination and then it’s good for a year after that.”
Wyoming Animal Hospital will soon be offering a brief exam and the first vaccine shot for $32. That special is running from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 6 at Wealthy Street Animal Hospital and 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Aug. 16 at Wyoming Animal Hospital. The special is first-come, first served.