Oklahoma City Animal Welfare updated its numbers to show that hundreds of dogs have some sort of respiratory illness as of Wednesday.
Canine flu is a contagious respiratory disease in dogs caused by two Type A “canine influenza viruses,” according to the CDC.
“We’ve had 297 dogs show symptoms of an upper respiratory infection,” said Jonathan Gary, Superintendent of Oklahoma City Animal Welfare. “Due to us not being able to test every animal, every dog showing symptoms was treated as though it was positive for Canine Flu.”
Dr. Lucas White of Sunset Veterinary Clinic says they are urging people to take it seriously.
“So, the pet started to show the main symptoms with canine flu like coughing, sneezing and sometimes labored breathing. A lot of pets can get lethargic too,” said Dr. White. “They don’t want to eat or drink because they just feel crummy. That can progress sometimes to pneumonia and get pretty pretty serious. Good news is that we do have a vaccine for it.”
The bad news is that Dr. White says they are in short supply until May.
“Most of the vaccines cover both strains that are spreading in dogs. Make an appointment with your veterinarian to see if they’ve got it and get it as soon as you can. If you need to take your dog grooming, boarding or just around other dogs then be careful,” said Dr. White.
“This is basically the trifecta. In the 22 years I’ve worked here and for Oklahoma, I think this is the first major case in some time,” said Director Kenny Stevenson of the Edmond Animal Shelter.
The Edmond location is not allowing any strays and preventing anyone from entering their facilities for ten days if they’ve been to the Oklahoma City shelter.
“My advice is, is don’t panic and just take your precautions,” said Director Stevenson. “I know Oklahoma City has been closed for several weeks, and I do believe they’re going to be closed several more weeks. So it’s not something to panic about, but it’s common sense. It’s just using extra precaution when you’re dealing with this situation.”
“From what I’ve seen and heard, around 20% of those dogs who had see severe infections and need to go to the hospital,” said Dr. White. “Those that end up dying due to it are around 5%.”
Many dog owners have been wondering if it is safe to walk their dogs after officials told them to not as the flu spread.
“It’s probably okay to walk your dog around your neighborhood or the park,” said Dr. White. “If you come up on a strange dog just make sure you give them a wide berth so that you reduce your risk of exposure. But definitely, like I said, places like the dog park or events that are around dogs then we are going to recommend staying away from them at the moment until your pet has a vaccine.”
Some dog owners did not know that the vaccine was even available.
“I trust my vet and their opinion very much and I would do whatever it took to keep her happy and healthy,” said Alyssa Link while taking her dog Ruby to get a bath. “Whether that means a vaccine or that means limiting her exposure in public. Yeah, absolutely. No, no problem with getting a vaccine.”