TWIN FALLS — Veterinarians are warning dog owners of a potentially fatal virus that recently entered Idaho.
A dog in Boise was diagnosed this week with canine influenza, said Dr. Connie Ripple of Magic Valley Veterinary Hospital in Twin Falls. The disease is highly contagious and has spread to all but a few states.
Veterinarians recommend pet owners get their dogs vaccinated as soon as possible to protect them from the flu, which has similar symptoms to the virus that affects people. A booster shot is needed three weeks after the first shot. Dogs especially at risk are those that frequently come into contact with other dogs, such as in a dog park, boarding kennel or grooming salon.
The disease can be fatal if it develops into pneumonia.
Two strains of dog flu exist in the U.S.; the first was reported in 2009 in Idaho. The second is a newer strain first reported in 2015 in scattered areas across the country, according to DogFlu.com. The newer strain — H3N2 — has not been around long enough for dogs to have built immunity to it, Ripple said.
California had an outbreak of the new strain in mid-December, she said. In January, it jumped to Reno, Nev. More than a thousand cases of dog flu have been diagnosed across the nation since December.
Ripple heard about the infected dog Tuesday evening.
“The virus is very contagious,” she said. “Dogs can get it by direct contact, through the air, coughing and sneezes, even owners’ clothes.”
Symptoms include lethargy, loss of appetite, a cough and runny nose, and a high fever. The coughing can last up to a month, but the infected dog can spread the disease for three weeks afterward.
Contrary to popular belief, the temperature of a dog’s nose doesn’t indicate illness, she said.
“We’re hoping it doesn’t come to Twin Falls,” Ripple said. “The more dogs we get vaccinated, the fewer cases we’ll see here.”