Florida’s dog flu outbreak has officially spread to Tennessee, according to the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.
Late last month, Florida health officials confirmed at least a dozen cases of canine influenza that is believed to have spread from dog shows in DeLand, Florida and Perry, Georgia. All affected dogs are currently being treated in stable condition, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services told Time.
The H3N2 virus, or dog flu, first emerged in the US in 2015, sickening over 1,000 dogs in Illinois and killing at least five.
It is extremely rare, however, for the virus to prove fatal. Initial symptoms include sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, lethargy, and decreased appetite. After diagnosis, the canine is quarantined for four weeks at home, where most dogs are typically able to recover without long-term complications. Dog flu is highly contagious among dogs but cannot be spread to humans.
"This virus is spread by direct contact of a susceptible dog with a contagious dog, but it is also spread very effectively and efficiently with contact through contaminated clothing, contaminated hands, contaminated objects in the environment," Dr. Cynda Crawford from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine said at a news conference.
Infected dogs are treated with antibiotics and cough medicine in addition to a healthy diet and hydration. Severe cases can require the need of oxygen therapy or injectable antibiotics in order to prevent the virus from evolving into pneumonia.
Scientists at the University of Florida have reportedly urged dog owners in the state to consult their veterinarians about vaccination.
"The more dogs in a community that we can vaccinate... the better chance we have of keeping this virus out of the community," Dr. Crawford added.
Two cases of Type A Canine Influenza have been confirmed in Knoxville, Tennessee.
UT veterinarian Dr. Melissa Kennedy said in a news release that the dog that infected the two Tennessee dogs was at a boarding facility in the Knoxville region along with another dog that had come into contact with dogs who participated in the Georgia dog show.
The Knoxville facility is aware of the infected dogs and has since isolated all other dogs it houses. Dr. Kennedy recommends that any dogs who are about to enter boarding facilities or participate in shows or competitions be vaccinated.
DeLand veterinary technician Melissa Lohsen told CBS News that the risk of infection is much higher in Florida, which is experiencing dog flu for the first time.
"Any pet owners that are bringing their dogs to dog parks, grooming facilities, boarding facilities, dog shows, if they have a very active lifestyle where they take their dog a lot out, then they should [be worried]," Lohsen said.
Dog flu has previously appeared in over 30 states, including New York, New Jersey, California, Texas, Michigan and Massachusetts.
Owners are advised to contact a veterinarian if their dog begins displaying even minor symptoms since it is reportedly very difficult to differentiate the symptoms of dog flu and common conditions like kennel cough. Some dogs can even be contagious before noticeable symptoms arise, therefore any dog that has been in a boarding facility or dog show within the effected regions of the US should be taken to a veterinarian.
Dog flu is most accurately diagnosed via a test called respiratory PCR but not all labs possess a PCR that tests for this specific virus. If you wish to have your dog tested for dog flu, contact your local laboratory to confirm that their PCR does in fact test for dog flu.
Veterinarians should also be notified before a potentially-infected pet is taken to their clinic so the clinic can ensure that the dog does not come into contact with other animals.