Don’t Stress (Yet) about the Dog Flu

The illness is 'rarely fatal.'

The Massachusetts Division of Animal Health has put out a warning that there’s a “cluster of canine influenza cases” in Essex County. The statement reads: “Dog owners with concerns regarding the health status of their pet are encouraged to consult with their veterinarian. Any veterinarians dealing with an increased number of apparent ‘kennel cough cases’ should contact the Department.”

Many media outlets (including his one) are reporting on the illness because it’s the first time that the “dog flu” has been found in the Commonwealth.

MassLive is reporting that the respiratory illness has been confirmed in four dogs that may have been exposed at the same facility in Ipswich.

The Gloucester Daily Times says that that puppies and older dogs as well as dogs already suffering from another illness are particularly vulnerable.

Worried pet owners should not stress over this illness. There is a vaccine available, and Rob Halpin, director of public relations for MSPCA-Angell, says that this outbreak is “very minor.”  He reached out to a few of the vets there at the second oldest humane society in the U.S., whose services include animal protection and adoption, advocacy, humane education, law enforcement, and veterinary care, to get a statement.

The vets at the MCPCA-Angell say that there is a flu vaccine for dogs that can lessen symptoms (but not prevent the illness). “We administer it to less than two percent of tens of thousands of dogs we treat every year at Angell, and in those cases it’s usually because the dogs are going to be kenneled and the kennel rules demand vaccination,” Halprin says. “Our vets say that the odds of contracting the flu are extremely low and most dogs will recover after a few days if they do get it. And we haven’t seen any cases here.”