Dog Flu Outbreak Spreading Rapidly, Forces Several Local Boarding Facilities to Close

This week Greenwich dog owners have been swapping stories of boarding facilities shut down because of outbreaks of canine influenza and kennel cough, which are super contagious.

Dr. Philip Putter, owner of Spot On Veterinary Hospital and Hotel in Stamford said the stories are true and it’s not just illness or the other.

“It’s everything,” Putter said. “It’s by location.”

He said two strains of flu – H3N2 and H3N8 – are confirmed to be spreading rapidly in the local area and that flu outbreak was preventable because there is a vaccination for both flu strains.

“We enforced strict vaccine requirements a few months ago when we knew the virus was in New York City and would come to our area,” he said, adding that he’d been watching the flu maps in anticipation of its arrival and had 85% of his clients vaccinated.

“It’s new, but we got ahead of it when we saw the trend a few months ago. Some people weren’t thrilled with us recommending the vaccine, but it’s why all the dogs here are well,” Putter said. “We’re tracking where this flu is going. Just like with people.”

As of Friday Putter said Spot On, which is both an animal hospital and boarding facility, was the only one of about a half dozen boarding facility still open and virus free. Putter credits that to his stringent vaccine requirements and cleaning protocols.

“CIV (canine influenza) was never here before. There have been outbreaks of Distemper and Bordetella that have closed down facilities, but this is the first time all the local facilities have had to close.”

But it’s not just CIV. There is at least one local facility with Bordetella. (Kennel cough is a description of symptoms, while Bordetella is one of the agents that causes the symptoms.)

“We’re personally found dogs from some of those facilities come back positive for Distemper  and Bordetella,” he said. “And there is one positive for Parainfluenza, which is an upper respiratory disease.”

Compounding the situation is its timing in the middle of summer vacation season when people rely on boarding facilities to take their dogs while they’re out of town.

“We are virus free. Our facility is open. And we have room,” Dr. Putter said. “We are only accepting dogs once they are appropriately treated and no longer contagious. We’re following strict guidelines.”

In fact, he said he and staff are treating dogs in the parking lot while wearing full isolation gear.

They are also able to keep dogs in isolation so there is no risk to other animals. “We’d never let any animal in here if they were positive for CIV, Distemper or Bordetella,” he said.

Putter said vaccinations are super important. His advice is simple. “First and foremost if your animal is sick, call your veterinarian right away because it can turn into pneumonia and it can be fatal. It’s not fear mongering.”

He advises pet owners to immediately the vet if your dog is coughing and sneezing.

“Get it diagnosed and treated early so the animal doesn’t get more sick and more expensive to treat.”

The canine influenza is preventatable. Dog owners are advised to ask for the Bivalent Vaccine to address both strains. The vaccine requires one booster two to thee weeks after the initial vaccine.

And just because your dog isn’t in contact with other dogs, doesn’t mean it won’t contract the flu.

People who are around dogs can bring the flu home on their shoes and clothing. Avoid dog parks, pet stores, and facilities with confirmed flu cases.

“We’re doing curbside appointments for vaccinations or if they’re sick – we’re not turning sick animals away. We spray ourselves down with a biocide that kills the viruses, and the whole building is treated. We’re here to help.”

Remember these important facts about Canine Influenza:

  • The incubation period is 2 to 4 days after exposure to an infected animal.

  • Dogs are most contagious BEFORE they start showing any symptoms and the virus is still incubating, for this reason just because a dog looks healthy does NOT mean they are.

  • Symptoms can range from a mild cough to pneumonia, if your dog is acting sick call your vet ASAP.

  • There is a vaccine available and it is strongly recommended that all dogs in our area be vaccinated ASAP with the bivalent vaccine (for two different strains of the flu).

  • Dog Flu is spread by dog to dog contact on dog parks, pet stores, and daycare type environments. It is also spread by any respiratory secretions left behind from a cough or sneeze in any area frequented by dogs such as glass doors (nose prints) elevators, even humans petting an infected dog and then their own dog.

  • Also, people who are around dogs can bring the flu home on their shoes and clothing

  • The virus is hardy and can live up to 48 hours on hard dry surfaces BUT is easily killed with hand washing and disinfectant. For this reason excellent hygiene can help to control the spread.

  • Until further notice avoid any unvaccinated dogs, any facilities with confirmed flu cases and dog parks as well as pet stores.

  • There is no evidence that Dog Flu is contagious to people.

Spot On Veterinary Hospital and Hotel is located at 184 Selleck Street in Stamford, CT 06902. Tel (203) 973-7768