More dogs in the D.C. region are getting sick, and the Montgomery County Office of Animal Services in Maryland is encouraging pet owners to consider skipping dog parks until the spike in canine influenza begins to come down.
Suspected cases of canine flu appear have been on the rise, and the illness is so prevalent and severe that veterinarians advised dog owners last month to keep pets away from other dogs at places such as dog parks, doggy day cares and boarding facilities.
“Dogs that do visit dog parks, doggy daycare or who are boarded when their owners are traveling are more at risk,” the Montgomery County Office of Animal Services said in a statement.
The highly contagious illness is caused by a specific strain of the Type A influenza virus.
Symptoms include cough, runny nose, eye discharge, fever, lethargy and poor appetite.
“The signs range in severity between no signs at all and severe illness, sometimes resulting in death,” the animal services office said.
At a dog park in North Bethesda, people were aware of the increase in cases, but they didn’t seem too worried about it.
“We have already done his vaccine for it, so it’s business as usual,” said dog owner Ben Taylor. “We had to do a dog day care and that required it, so we had to get it.”
Another dog owner Lauren McCullough said she would be watching for any possible symptoms.
“We haven’t had any issues so far, but if we did, we would stay away for a couple months,” McCullough said. “Most of the dogs that come here are puppies, and sometimes they come before their first vaccines and stuff like that, so it can be a little bit of a hot spot.”
The county’s animal services office urged dog owners to ask their veterinarians about the canine influenza vaccine.
“While the vaccine may not stop a dog from contracting the virus completely, it will lessen the severity and help reduce the spread,” the office said.
If a dog is diagnosed with canine influenza, it should be separated from other animals for at least 28 days.
Most dogs recover within two or three weeks, but some may develop secondary bacterial infections, leading to more severe illness.
When it comes to people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there are no reported cases of canine influenza viruses spreading from dogs to people.
WTOP’s Mike Murillo contributed to this report.