KINGSPORT — Dog owners in Tennessee should be on the lookout for symptoms of a contagious illness that could affect their dogs.
According to the Tennessee News Service, cases of canine flu have been confirmed in several of Tennessee’s surrounding states, including Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.
While no cases have yet been confirmed in Tennessee, there is a possibility that the virus could soon make its way into Tennessee borders.
Andy Cherry of Cherry Point Animal Hospital in Kingsport, said a case of canine flu has been confirmed in Asheville, and because dog owners frequently travel with their pets, he thinks it is likely to reach this region.
Most dogs that are exposed to the virus will be affected, though the majority of dogs with the illness do not die from it.
“Eighty percent of dogs will show symptoms after contact, and there’s a 10 percent mortality rate,” Cherry said. “It’s kind of like [the flu] in people.”
Cherry said canine flu symptoms can resemble those of other illnesses, such as bortetella. Some of the most common dog flu symptoms include coughing, nasal discharge, fever and lethargy.
Pet owners are encouraged to take their dog to the vet for testing if it exhibits any dog flu symptoms. There are swab and blood tests available to determine if the dog has the illness.
While Cherry does recommend the CIV vaccine to protect dogs from canine flu and lessen symptoms, it may not prove completely effective against some strains of the virus.
“The vaccine, in some cases, prevents certain strains, but one vaccine doesn’t protect everything,” Cherry said.
Dogs with preexisting health problems are at an increased risk of contracting canine flu. Cherry said dogs that are frequently boarded or in close contact with other dogs also have a greater risk.
According to the Tennessee News Service, the illness typically subsides in dogs within a few weeks and has not been transmitted to humans.
Dog owners can take a few simple precautions to protect their dogs from canine flu. Because the virus can live up to 24 hours on clothing, Cherry said good sanitation practices are important. Reducing the dog’s contact with other unknown dogs can also lower the risk of infection.
Cherry said he is unsure how cold winter weather will affect the spread of the virus, but for now, canine flu is not a deadly threat in most cases.
“Don’t panic,” Cherry said. “I think most are going to be fine, even if they do contract it.”