Area vets prepare for dog flu virus to hit

Published 12:03 am Friday, May 29, 2015

By Mary Kathryn Carpenter

NATCHEZ — Dog flu is causing pet owners to panic elsewhere in the county, but Natchez area veterinarians are not overly concerned.

The H3N2 avian influenza mutated in Asia around 2007 to affect dogs and some cats, but in April 2014, it made its way stateside and is infecting dogs left and right in metropolitan areas like Chicago.

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However, Mississippi and Louisiana are excluded from the list of 15 or so states that have confirmed a positive case of the flu virus.

That does not mean vets here are not ready for the flu when it comes, and Dr. Justin Gregg of Gregg Veterinary Hospital is sure it will.

“I think it is going to be like the West Nile virus,” Gregg said. “I think we are going to see it. We just have to be ready for it.”

Gregg also said it may already be here, and it just has not been noticed yet.

Dr. Robert Savant of the Natchez Veterinary Clinic said he also believes the flu will eventually make its way to Miss-Lou canines.

“Because we are a mobile group of people and our dogs go with us, I wouldn’t doubt that, in the future, we will have a case here,” Savant said. “I expect it to hit Jackson or the Gulf Coast first.”

Savant said the flu affects dogs in a similar way to how the flu affects people. They get fevers, runny noses, may act depressed or exhibit other flu-like symptoms.

It is also spread similarly. Dogs can catch the virus from other dogs that have been infected, or from people who have been in contact with infected animals.

Gregg warned that chicken owners should keep dogs away from their flock. As an avian flu that mutated to affect dogs, H3N2 can cause harm to the local backyard chick population.

Savant said the flu would be treated with fluids, rest and antibiotics to ward off other illnesses, much like the flu would be treated in a person.

“The biggest thing to take from this is it unfortunately will make your dog feel bad,” Savant said. “It is rare for it to be fatal.”

There is not currently a vaccine for this illness plaguing pups, but Gregg thinks one is on the way, and said in the mean time, if a dog is up to code on its yearly vaccinations, it should be healthy enough to fight off the flu if it were to pick it up somehow.

Savant said there is no way to know how or when the flu might reach our neck of the woods, but guessed it would take six months to a year.