Canine flu outbreak puts strain on pet owners and local shelters in Texas

An outbreak of canine flu caused dogs to spread the disease across North Texas.

Like humans, dogs with the flu may have a cough, runny nose, fever, or decreased appetite. According to Laurie Teller, who specializes in veterinary medicine at Texas A&M University, canine flu is rarely fatal but highly contagious.

“They sniff each other, they have close contact, they can lick each other, so it’s very easy for germs to spread that way,” Teller said.

Symptoms don’t always show up right away, she said. It is commonly distributed in kennels, dog parks, and other common areas for dogs.

There is a vaccine for canine flu, and Teller said pet owners should consult with a veterinarian to get their pets vaccinated. Giving animals human medicines for their symptoms is a dangerous practice that, in her experience, is common.

“We will see people give their pets cough medicines or painkillers, decongestants, and many of them have serious side effects, sometimes even fatal,” Teller said.

Local shelters are under pressure as they cope with the influx of imported dogs.

In a press release last week, Dallas Animal Services stated the need for adoption and shelter for the nearly 200 dogs in their care that have been exposed to the flu. DAS offers gift cards for those who adopt a dog for 14 days or more.

Due to the high number of contacts, the shelter had to isolate the infected dogs on one side of the building.

“What we really need for our shelter is to ensure that we don’t cross-breed our unprotected dogs that haven’t been exposed yet to the new incoming population,” said Marlo Klingman, spokesman for the City of Dallas.

DAS is confident it can handle the situation, she said, as only five dogs out of 101 tested have tested positive for the flu this month.

However, Klingman said keeping dozens of dogs brought to the shelter every day to avoid further infection makes the job difficult.

As for dog owners, they can protect their pets in much the same way that humans have protected themselves from COVID-19.

“It is important that they are calm and rested, hydrated and isolated so that they do not transmit the virus to other dogs and develop secondary infections from the bacteria they collect or pneumonia,” Klingman said.

Any advice? Write to Toluvani Osibamowo at [email protected]

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Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Dallas Animal Services offers gift cards for adopters. Gift cards are only available to those who adopted a dog for 14 days or more.

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