‘Dog flu’ hitting hard in Florida

 

NEWBURYPORT — Local veterinarians have been notified that the canine influenza has arrived in Greater Newburyport.

Dog owners who were unaware that there is even a dog flu aren’t alone.

Canine influenza was first discovered in Florida in 2005, and while the virus will have pockets of outbreaks and has made appearances in other states, this is the first time it has ever been seen in dogs in Massachusetts, said Dr. Heidi Bassler of Bassler Veterinary Hospital in Salisbury.

Since it was never a problem here before now, Bassler said, many local veterinarians, herself included, never vaccinated dogs for the virus, which leaves the dog population vulnerable right now.

“The main thing is that people know that the dogs in this area, the vast majority, have never been exposed to canine influenza,” Bassler said Friday. “We have a immunologically naïve population of dogs.”

“We are trying to notify the public that it is important they contact their veterinarian for the ‘dog flu’ vaccine,” she said.

Bassler said she ordered as many of the vaccinations as she could get; however, each dog needs to have two vaccination shots, several weeks apart. It’s not until several days after the second vaccination that the dog is considered protected, she said.

As with humans, dogs who are most susceptible to getting the flu are those who are often in social settings, such as doggie daycare, puppy groups, obedience classes, dog shows, or those who attend the groomer or dog parks, or visit a kennel to be boarded.

“Dogs that are near each other…can spread it quickly and can become easily infected,” Bassler said. “Any place where a lot of dogs congregate, there are risk factors.”

The virus can be carried on clothing or toys, according to Bassler. With summer coming, families may be planning to board their dogs while on vacation, and it’s important to get your pet vaccinated before doing so, she said.

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