DeKalb animal shelter giving antibiotics to 300 dogs following positive test for dog fluFILE PHOTO USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES. Photo provided by LifeLine
DeKalb County, GA — LifeLine Animal Project confirmed to Decaturish that 300 of the roughly 500 dogs at the DeKalb County animal shelter are receiving antibiotics after a dog tested positive for canine influenza, also known as dog flu.
According to the CDC, dog flu is a contagious respiratory disease.
“To date, there is no evidence of spread of canine influenza viruses from dogs to people and there has not been a single reported case of human infection with a canine influenza virus in the U.S. or worldwide,” the CDC says.
The dog flu is rarely fatal, but some dogs can catch pneumonia. Tiki Artist, a spokesperson for LifeLine, said the antibiotics are “primarily to keep it from spreading or turning into pneumonia.”
On Friday evening, Dec. 30, DeKalb County published a press release about a “highly contagious strain of dog flu” that has “been spreading in several U.S. cities and is circulating in the Atlanta area.”
“Pet owners should monitor their own dogs for symptoms, which may include coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, labored breathing, and lethargy, and contact their veterinarian if their pet appears ill,” the press release says. “If your pet is showing symptoms, please keep them isolated from other dogs for 28 days to prevent further spread of the disease.”
The shelter is using enhanced safety measures to mitigate the spread of the virus.
“We have safeguards in place,” Artist said. “[Personal Protective Equipment], masks, gloves, sanitizer being offered to visitors. All staff are being required to wear masks and wash their hands.”
Staff and visitors are being urged to change their clothing and shoes when they get home to prevent spreading the virus. People who want to foster or adopt a dog are being given instructions to isolate and monitor the dog for seven days after the last time they were at the shelter if their dog is asymptomatic.
“If the pet is lethargic, not eating or struggling to breathe, a vet should be contacted immediately because this could indicate pneumonia, which can be fatal,” Artist said.
Artist said the best defense for pet owners is for them to keep their dogs away from each other.
“Obviously, we can’t do that in a shelter,” she said.
Local veterinarian Kelly Swinks who works at Clairmont Animal Hospital said the hospital is seeing an increasing number of dogs with flu symptoms.
“We cannot confirm that all these cases are flu, but some certainly fit with the disease,” Swinks said. “We recommend that any dogs showing signs of coughing, decreased appetite and lethargy consult their local veterinarian.
Christopher Simmons, a veterinarian opening up a practice in Decatur, said there is a vaccine available for dogs.
“The H3N2 strain spread rapidly through the US (including the metro Atlanta area) back in 2015 which led to the creation of a new combination vaccine that can protect against both viral strains,” he said. “This safe vaccination can have a dramatic impact on preventing severe illness (particularly pneumonia). Thus, if your dog is a known social butterfly, it is strongly recommended to get them vaccinated as soon as you can.”
Like Artist, Simmons recommends keeping dogs apart for now.
“Keep your pups socially distanced, and they’ll likely be just fine,” he said. “If you can’t do that, get them vaccinated with the bivalent CIV vaccine to provide a significant layer of protection. And finally, if you are concerned about their health, contact a veterinarian for further guidance as soon as you are able.”
To learn more about canine influenza, click here.
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