Vets warn that dog flu H3N2 could be spreading

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H3N2 is a type of bird flu that has adapted to infect dogs, and cases have been reported in over a dozen states in the last year.  Florida is not on that list, but Georgia is.  Now, officials in Washington and Montana are concerned the flu has spread to those states.  Authorities in Seattle are investigating after several dogs became sick at a local kennel.  

"There's a big blast that went out to all the veterinarians in this area so we are aware," says Dr. Beth Davidow of Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners in North Seattle.  "Public health wanted everybody to know, because if that is influenza, it's quite contagious and we don't want to have outbreaks like we are seeing in Chicago and Georgia, if we can avoid it." 

King County Public Health says a suspected outbreak at the Holiday Kennels in Kent may have affected 80 to 90 dogs in December.  Several dogs developed flu-like symptoms including runny noses and coughs.

"Respiratory viruses are very contagious. We see kennel cough more often, which is much more common, and influenza looks a lot in some cases like kennel cough," says Dr. Davidow.

Kennel cough was suspected, until health officials learned a dog that stayed at the kennel traveled to Georgia with its owners and had interaction with two other dogs that tested positive for H3N2.  Health officials say test results are pending for the sick dogs.

While humans can't contract H3N2, we sure can pass it along.  "It's airborne, so if a dog coughs on you, coughs on your hands, you pet another dog you, could give it to another dog," says Dr. Davidow.

Dog owners say they do wish it were easier to keep tabs on which dog has been where, when and with whom.

"We have a lot of dogs that come here. They go to daycare a couple times a day, maybe they've been boarded recently over the holidays and stuff, so it'd be kind of nice to know," says Austin Pederson, owner of Dogwood Play Park.

If your dog comes down with a cough, officials say don't take them to the dog park and don't go to doggy daycare. Have them checked out by your veterinarian, but call first, so they can set up isolation just in case.  To read more about Canine Dog Flu, click here