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Dog flu surfaces in Greenwich, Stamford

August 4, 2018

GREENWICH — At least one confirmed case of dog flu has been reported in Greenwich.

The viral infection, which has closed a number of dog kennels in the region, is highly contagious.

Dr. Aparna Modi of the Greenwich Animal Hospital said staff at the animal clinic had a confirmed case, after dog flu turned up in Stamford last week.

A strain of the flu began infecting dogs in New York City earlier this summer, where a cluster of 100 cases were found. Experts say the virus appears to have spread from there, perhaps from dogs that were passengers on commuter trains coming from the city.

Modi said veterinarians are hoping that the dog flu will run its course and dissipate soon. “Mostly, these kind of infections don’t last too long,” the Greenwich veterinarian said.

In the meantime, pet-health experts are encouraging vaccinations for dogs. Dog owners are also advised to keep their pets away from other dogs if they start showing signs of dog flu, such as sneezing, coughing, lethargy and lack of appetite. The canine version of the influenza virus has a similar effect on dogs as it does in humans. And it can also be dangerous to a dog’s health.

“Most dogs recover from it pretty easily,” said Modi. “But for other dogs, it can be a significant problem.”

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the death rate is less than 10 percent in flu-ridden dogs, and “deaths occur mainly in dogs with the severe form of disease.”

It is not infectious for humans.

Modi said dog owners should check in with their vet if their pets start coughing regularly. It’s imperative that dogs that may be carrying the flu be kept away from other dogs, and if they need to go to the vet’s office, that advance notice is given. The goal is to prevent the spread of the disease, said Modi.

“We isolate them — we don’t want to expose them to other dogs,” said the Greenwich vet.

Dogs have little natural resistance to the influenza strain.

Several Stamford kennels have closed to new dogs, and quarantined ones are still boarding to keep the virus from spreading, according to local health authorities.

The virus is transferred through nasal discharge — sneezes or wet muzzles.

If a dog has a cough or presents any symptoms, said Nolan Zeide, a Stamford veterinarian, the owner should keep the pet home for one month until the animal is no longer contagious. “You also want to keep your dog away from dogs that are presenting signs,” he said.

Owners of sick dogs should seek help if necessary, but a little water in food bowls and anything to help moisten nasal and oral passageways can help dogs stave off other infections, he added.

“Remember, we’re not treating flu, we’re treating secondary infections,” he said.

— With Staff Reporter Barry Lytton

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