Juneau's dogs are passing around the flu.
The sickness that started showing up in the city's four-legged population a few weeks ago first looked like the more common kennel cough but turned out to be canine influenza, the Gastineau Human Society learned form the Office of the State Veterinarian this weekend.
"This appears to be pretty mild," said Human Society Executive Director Chava Lee, "but still we wanted people to know and to take precautions to protect their animals."
No dog deaths have been reported due to the infectious respiratory illness.
Lee said that after several dogs in the nonprofit's Doggie Day Care program came down with a cough a few weeks ago, she called other local vets and determined that more than 100 dogs had been seen for a cough. Screening showed it was canine influenza.
Canine flu is contagious among dogs and is spread by direct contact with respiratory secretions from infected dogs, with contaminated objects such as feeding bowls, and by people moving from infected to healthy dogs.
Symptoms are lethargy and a hacking, dry cough. Dogs with the flu may also have a runny nose, sneezing or a decreased appetite. The virus can spread up to 14 days after infection, and dogs with no symptoms can still be contagious.
The virus cannot spread to humans or other animals.
Dr. Pat Taylor, owner and veterinarian at Southeast Alaska Animal Medical Center, said the clinic has treated up to three dozen dogs for a cough in the past few weeks.
Taylor said canine flu is more serious than kennel cough but is treated the same, with antibiotics and cough suppressant. There's no cure or vaccine.
The threat with the flu is that a dog could develop a bacterial infection that could lead to pneumonia, Taylor said. The virus could also mutate.
Outbreaks of kennel cough, also known as bordatella, are seen every few years in Juneau, but Taylor said he's never seen canine flu in the community.
Taylor recommends owners who suspect their dogs have the flu take them to the vet for anti-cough medication, restrict the pet's exercise and keep them away from other dogs.
When visiting the vet, Taylor said to call ahead so that staff can be prepared to keep the infected dog away from other patients in the office.
The Humane Society said symptoms are usually mild and go away on their own, but concerned owners should call their vet.
Pet owners should limit their dog's interaction with other dogs for the next three weeks to a month, when the virus should wane in Juneau, Taylor said.
Contact reporter Kim Marquis at 523-2279 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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