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Dog flu cases in Minnesota prompt more vigilance among vets

GRAND FORKS—Cases of dog flu in central and eastern Minnesota have put veterinarians on alert for possible signs of the disease in the Red River Valley.

The virus has been reported in Crow Wing, Kandiyohi, Ramsey, Sherburne and Wright counties in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health website.

The virus, which is "extremely contagious," is spread through coughing, sneezing and direct contact between dogs or contaminated surfaces, said Dr. Stacy Lord, veterinarian at Petcetera Animal Clinic in Grand Forks.

"Dogs can pick it up through exposure to coughing dogs within six feet, nose-to-nose contact, and by sharing food bowls and play facilities," she said.

Symptoms of the disease include a dry cough, runny nose, sneezing, lethargy, poor appetite and low-grade fever, Lord said.

If your pet is sick, Lord recommends keeping it "isolated and out of dog parks and grooming facilities for two to four weeks." If more serious symptoms occur, such as trouble breathing, a high fever or a productive cough, the dog "would need to get right into an isolated room," Lord said.

Dogs with underlying diseases or immune systems that are unable to fight off the virus "are actually the ones that show clinical signs" of influenza, Keller said.

"You can't assume it's influenza, so it's best to consult with a vet, she said. "Vets know what's going on in the local practice area and can make recommendations for treatment."

The threat posed by canine influenza "depends on the strain," Keller said. "If some mortality is possible, we would alert the public and the (veterinarian) community to limit exposure."

A vaccine to treat the disease is available "but, similar to the human side, the virus can mutate, so the vaccine may not be a 100 percent match," Keller said.

Keller said it's important for dog-owners to make sure their pets' vaccinations are up-to-date.

The state requires "health certificates for any dogs coming into North Dakota, to make sure they have had all their vaccinations and are current for rabies, if (they are) age-eligible," she said.

If an outbreak of dog flu were to occur in North Dakota, veterinarians would be notified.