For the first time in Arizona, local dogs might be sharing more than just slobbery kisses and butt sniffs with their fellow furry friends.
Last Friday, Maricopa County Animal Care and Control veterinarians tested a sample size of 16 dogs that were experiencing "kennel cough" or an upper respiratory infection. Two dogs tested positive for the flu virus strand recently discovered in dogs.
The virus is fairly new to the medical field and was discovered in Chicago in 2015, Maricopa County's Chief Veterinarian and Medical Director Leo Egar said. Despite this, there's no reason for dog lovers to panic.
The canine flu, much like the human flu, does not have a sure-fire antidote. In most cases, the virus just needs to run its course.
Symptoms are similar to those of the human virus, which include a runny nose, cough, fatigue, and loss of appetite. The mild and most common form of the virus usually lasts 10 to 30 days, Public Information Officer Jose Miguel Santiago wrote in a press release Thursday.
There's no reason not to let the family dog join in on Labor Day weekend fun, though. There have been no recorded instances of the canine flu transferring to humans and only a few cases of it transferring to cats.
So please, don't quarantine Spot just because he has a runny nose.
For dogs that have a more active lifestyle or what Egar likes to call "the dog about town," he suggests pet owners consult their veterinarian on giving their pup a vaccine to prevent the flu.
Dogs that compete in competitions, travel often, or spend time at doggy day care are most at risk of contracting the flu.
Phoenix dog training and boarding facility Learning Pawsibilities requires shots for DHPP, Bordatella, Rabies but not the flu vaccine, owner Mirna Pacheco said.
Pacheco said she has never seen a flu outbreak in dogs during her 15 years as a dog trainer and certified veterinary technician. She's not alarmed though, she compares it to when kids go back to school.
Other dogs at higher risk are those who have lower immune system to begin with. Here in Arizona, that probably means a dog with Valley fever, a fungal infection.
Although the MDPetCare facility in Phoenix hasn't seen any cases yet, clinic workers have vaccinated its entire dog population at the Arizona Animal Welfare League shelter as a precautionary measure, communications manager Michael Morefield said.
The MDPetCare clinic is offering a two round vaccine, meaning dogs must receive a second dose of the vaccine 10-14 days after the first one. The clinic will continue to vaccinate any dogs it takes into the shelter, Morefield said.
This precaution is especially relevant as Hurricane Harvey and Irma leave dogs homeless and often displaced. Hurricane affected areas are often hotbeds for the flu virus and the likelihood of dogs traveling from them to the valley increases as both people and pets evacuate, Morefield said.
Given these safeguards, there is no imminent threat to adopting a new dog here in the valley.
The dogs at both Maricopa County Animal Care and Control Centers are still available to be played with or adopted. One of the two dogs that tested positive for the flu already has a new home and is recovering.
Egar said he's most concerned about the dog community as a whole. For those who foster dogs, Egar suggests highly considering vaccination for other pets in the home.
"We now know it's in the community, so we have a higher level of concern," he said.
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Egar warns that though this flu does not have a high mortality rate, it is highly contagious. The best line of defense, as always, is washing your hands.
So, if you plan to come to the shelter and play with man's best friend, then please use the hand-washing stations. If you're getting really cuddly, it couldn't hurt to change your shirt before snuggling with your pup at home.
"This is what we learn in kindergarten — be clean, wash your hands," Egar said.