What you need to know about the biggest canine flu outbreak ever in LA County

Here’s an outbreak in LA County you may not have heard of: Canine flu has been causing problems at animal shelters, dog daycares and dog parks since this summer. It is the largest outbreak on record here, according to county officials.

This outbreak recently put adoptions on hold at West LA and West Valley animal shelters. Annette Ramirez, assistant general manager of rescue at the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services, said access to the facilities reopened this week after each dog had 28 days of quarantine.

“Much of our population started showing symptoms, like runny nose, cough, sneezing,” she said.

After the dogs stopped showing symptoms and completed their quarantine, they were moved to another section of the shelter with other dogs. During the quarantine period, visitors were restricted.

Ramirez and others strongly encourage dog owners to vaccinate their puppies against the strain known as CIV H3N2.

“Especially now with the holidays approaching where people are traveling. And sometimes they are putting their pets in boarding or dog day care,” she said. “It is important to make sure that these dogs are fully vaccinated.”

Ramirez adds that most dogs who contract canine flu have mild cases. It is dogs with underlying medical conditions that are most at risk.

A generalized epidemic

Between July and October of this year, county officials reported around 800 confirmed and suspected cases of CIV H3N2 in dogs and seven deaths. The most recent previous outbreak in 2017 affected only 35 cases. The strain was first detected in the United States in 2015.

County officials said of this year’s outbreak:

Of the reported cases, most were associated with going to a kennel or dog daycare. There are a number of cases who have never visited a boarding house or daycare, but have been exposed during walks in their neighborhood, in dog parks, at groomers or at veterinary clinics.

A few things to know:

  • Symptoms include cough, fever, sneezing, runny nose, lethargy, and / or loss of appetite. Some dogs show no symptoms. Cats can also be infected.
  • The vaccine consists of two doses and is given 3 to 4 weeks apart. It takes another two weeks before the animal is considered fully vaccinated.
  • To help limit the spread of H2N3, keep your pet home for 28 days from the first day of illness.
  • H2N3 is not known to cause disease in humans
  • However, wash your hands after touching your pet

County health officials are also asking people to report known cases. They also made available a partial list of vaccine suppliers.

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About Hector Hedgepeth

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