Dog owners in Napa are being warned to watch for signs of canine influenza after an outbreak of the dog flu in the Oakland area.
“Oakland Animal Services is experiencing an outbreak of the Canine Influenza Virus (CIV), aka the Canine flu,” said a post on the organization’s website.
“It is very contagious between dogs and can be deadly. DO NOT bring any dogs to the shelter.”
Even though no cases have been identified in Napa County, the outbreak is worrisome enough that some Napa veterinarians are posting messages on Facebook or emailing clients about the outbreak. One Napa veterinary clinic advised against taking dogs out in public until the extent of the outbreak is known.
“We’re concerned that a lot of people here in Napa do travel to Oakland and Berkeley” with their dogs, said Dr. Sarah Hanley, DVM, of Napa River Pet Hospital.
“I’m not worried we are going to have a terrible outbreak of canine influenza but now is the time we would see cases if we did because we have this documented exposure” in Oakland, said Hanley.
She doesn’t want dog owners to panic, said Hanley. “I don’t think we need to hide inside or not go anywhere. It comes down to awareness. Be aware of potential and signs.”
For example, “I would definitely recommend not hanging around pets that show signs of upper respiratory disease,” such as coughing, sneezing or nasal discharge, said Hanley.
There is a canine influenza vaccine available, Hanley said. The estimated cost at her clinic is $35. Two doses are required.
In an email to patients, California Pet Hospital of Napa described canine influenza as “a highly contagious virus.”
The symptoms are respiratory and can vary from dog to dog. Some have no symptoms, while others can become seriously ill, said the email.
“Fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, runny nose, coughing, and vomiting have been reported. Common areas of exposure are parks, grooming salons, boarding facilities or doggie daycare. Unfortunately, a dog may have the virus and not be showing symptoms but could still be spreading the virus.”
California Pet Hospital recommends the vaccine for canine influenza.
“We also recommend not taking your dogs out in public, if possible, at this point as we see how this virus is spreading,” said the June 29 email.
Humans cannot contract the flu from dogs, said the email. Cats, however, can sometimes catch the virus from infected dogs. There is no flu vaccine for cats.
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Canine influenza can be quite serious, said Paul Hess, DVM, and owner of Silverado Veterinary Hospital.
“If you expose 100 dogs, about 90 will show signs and become somewhat ill. There may be as many as eight to 10 that will die.”
At the same time, Hess recommended dog owners not overreact.
“We’ve not had outbreaks in Sonoma, Napa, Solano or Lake counties,”, he noted. “There’s a buffer around us right now. But that all changes” if a dog from outside the area that has canine influenza comes to Napa County.
Hess urged caution for dogs that do travel a lot, are boarded or go where there is a large concentration of other dogs.
When asked about taking dogs to Alston Park in Napa, a common destination for Napa dog owners, Hess said he was less worried about using that park, “because most of those dogs are local and we haven’t had a local outbreak yet.”
“If you want to be ultra-careful and your dog does go to social places it’s wise to get the canine influenza vaccine,” said Hess.
“The biggest thing is talk to your vet about it,” said Hess. “They have all the information.”
Jonathan Dear, DVM, is an assistant professor at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
“The good news for most dogs is they don’t come into contact with lots of dogs that have bugs unless they go to a dog park, groomer or veterinarian,” said Dear. “For dogs that don’t encounter those, there’s no reason to worry.”
As to keeping dogs sequestered, “I wouldn’t go so far as to say keep your dog indoors,” but “you always have to be cautious that you’re not exposing your pet to disease.”
With this outbreak “We need to be a little bit more careful about interacting with dogs in public places and with dogs that have signs of respiratory disease,” said Dear.
The Napa County Animal Shelter has not been affected by canine influenza, said Manager Erika Gamez.
“We’ve been vaccinating our shelter dogs for over a year now,” Gamez said. “No dog leaves here without having been vaccinated at least once,” for canine influenza, she said.