CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Veterinarians have an urgent warning about a highly contagious respiratory virus and flu infecting dogs in Charlotte. It’s airborne and easily spreads at dog daycares and kennels. If left untreated, it can quickly progress into something more dangerous.
Vets are urging pet owners to do what they can to keep their dogs safe and know the signs and symptoms.
“Multiple cases a day that are coming in coughing and we’re hospitalizing at least one or two a week that are becoming oxygen dependent,” Dr. Jill Pascarella, an emergency doctor at CARE animal hospital in Charlotte told WCNC Charlotte.
Several other vets are also reporting dozens of calls from clients a day.
Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) is airborne and spreads just like human flu. Symptoms can take 3 to 7 days to appear, and it will typically start off as a dry, hacking cough. Other symptoms include sneezing, reverse sneezing, nasal or ocular discharge, decreased energy, decreased appetite, and trouble breathing.
“Typically, the respiratory viruses that we’d see would be a pretty self-limiting cough, more like a cold, and would just get better on its own and now we’re seeing it progress to pretty severe pneumonia in dogs,” Pascarella said.
Many dogs are being prescribed antibiotics to keep the virus from progressing into something that could land them in Pascarella’s emergency room. She said several dogs have died from this.
“The ones that need to come to the ER are the dogs who are not eating, are very lethargic, any respiratory distress,” she said. “What that looks like in dogs are the nose pointed up to the sky trying to breathe, puffing their cheeks with their mouths closed, or using their belly muscles to breathe.”
Many dogs will be prescribed a medicine that you can fill at any pharmacy. But with respiratory virus season starting early for people too, pharmacies are slammed.
“I have seen an uptick in the last three or four weeks of people with prescriptions for dogs,” said Greg Deese, a registered pharmacist and the owner of Oakhurst Pharmacy said.
Some pet owners have had to call several pharmacies to get what they need.
“Amoxicillin is a general antibiotic given to adults, kids, and pets, and I’ve never in my 39-year career seen a shortage of amoxicillin to this degree. Suddenly this week, I can’t get it,” Deese said.
Meanwhile, several doggie day care facilities are on high alert, enhancing cleaning procedures and even temporarily shutting down.
“I called 30 different people and said, 'please don’t board your dog here this weekend,' I’ve got a whole other list of people to start calling today," Kim Lovingood-Owens, the owner of NoDa Bark and Board said. "As a business owner, that is not something that I want to do, but I can’t in good conscience let you bring your dog to get sick."
Even when treated, the cough can last four-to-six weeks, and dogs can spread it up to three weeks after they stop coughing.
“The best thing you can do is keep your dogs home. Don’t put them out in social situations because this does seem to be very contagious,” Pascarella said.
Just like for humans, there is a flu shot for dogs. Vets and kennels recommend getting that added layer of protection this year.