Flu vaccination being considered – for pets – as ‘dog flu’ is reported near San Jose

FILE -- A golden retriever.
FILE -- A golden retriever.

Canine companions may be joining their human owners in suffering through a particularly rough flu season.

Multiple sources have reported that canine influenza, or dog flu, has spread rapidly in many parts of the country, concerning some vets and pet owners.

Fox News on Tuesday reported that dog flu had spread to at least 46 states.

Outbreaks of the contagious illness have been reported nationwide, most notably on the West Coast, including the San Francisco Bay Area near San Jose as well as Washington.

In responding to Fox News’ story, Dr. Mark Kummer of Fairhaven Veterinary Hospital in Washington claimed, “there has been no serious increase in flu cases on the west coast.”

On the other hand, one vet at the United Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Hospital in Campbell recently told SFGate the facility had seen about 50 cases in the past two weeks, but no reported deaths, as the mortality rate of dog flu is low.

Humans cannot catch canine influenza from dogs. Dog flu causes upper-respiratory infections with symptoms similar to the human flu, or kennel cough: coughs, runny snouts and lethargy that can last as long as four weeks. It has been diagnosed since 2004.

Vaccinations have not been widely recommended, but that may change if cases continue to increase, said Monterey-based veterinarian Margaret Finaly, who called the disease “very contagious.”

“There have been very recently a couple of confirmed cases up in the greater San Jose area, so it is moving into this area (Monterey),” Finaly told KSBW, “and because it is very contagious, I am sure it is just a matter of time before we start seeing cases.”

Others are more adamant about taking proactive measures to stop spread of the illness.

“We are taking this outbreak very seriously, as infected dogs are getting very ill,” Dr. Kyle Frandle of Los Gatos Dog & Cat Hospital said in a note to his clients, according to San Jose Mercury News.

Frandle recommended vaccination during a Q&A with Mercury News, adding that owners should keep their dogs away from other animals.

SFGate reported that the two strains of dog flu – H3N2 and H3N8 – didn’t come to California until 2017, with one case reported in Sacramento.

Human influenza, meanwhile, is widespread in every state but Hawaii. It continues to be a devastating flu season with rising death counts across the country, though some experts think the worst may be over.