You know how fast the flu can sweep through your office, or your toddler's day care?
The same thing can happen with your dog.
In fact, a strain of highly contagious dog flu is sweeping right now through 13 Southern states, and animal doctors are recommending pet owners consider vaccinations.
On Tuesday, some vets in the region will be offering discount vaccinations against the H3N2 strain of canine influenza.
Dr. Kat Primm, of the Applebrook Animal Hospital in Ooltewah, said the question of whether to vaccinate depends on the dog's lifestyle: the ones that mix with other dogs need it to protect themselves and their canine pals.
Vaccinations are required for dogs that board in a kennel, Primm said. Dogs on the show circuit, those that play at the dog park, attend doggie day care or see a groomer should also get the treatment, she said, to prevent the disease from spreading.
"It has kind of been minimized a little bit, people saying it's not that big of a deal, but a dog that is sick can be contagious for three weeks," she said. If the flu strain turned up at a grooming salon, a kennel or a vet's office, the place could be quarantined until the risk of it spreading is past.
"It's not only to keep animals safe; we can't afford to close down for three weeks," Primm said.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association [AVMA] website, "Because this is still an emerging disease and dogs in the U.S. have not been exposed to it before, almost all dogs, regardless of breed or age, lack immunity to it" and are likely to get the flu if exposed.
Most dogs that pick up the H3N2 strain get a mild form, the American Veterinary Medical Association says on its website. They develop a soft, moist cough lasting from 10 to 30 days. They may lose their appetites, be lethargic, run a fever, or show a discharge from eyes and nose.
Healthy dogs with the mild form of the flu usually recover just fine. But there's a severe form that can cause high fevers and clinical signs of pneumonia, such as increased respiratory rates and effort. Pneumonia may be due to a secondary bacterial infection. Older dogs or ones with other health problems could die, though the AMVA said the mortality rate is less than 10 percent.
Primm said she hasn't seen any H3N2 cases in her clinic but she said she's heard of some in Chattanooga. Applebrook is among the clinics offering discount vaccinations Tuesday. All dogs, not just Applebrook patients, are welcome.
Dogs must be at least seven weeks old. Applebrook will charge $16 each for the initial shot and a required booster two to four weeks later. Thereafter, vaccinations are annual.
"Anybody that wants their dog vaccinated can do so at a discount price. We're going to try to keep this out of Ooltewah and stop it in Chattanooga," Primm said.
Contact Judy Walton at email@example.com or 423-757-6416.
CORRECTION: This story should not have said local veterinarians would be offering discounted dog flu vaccines. Information provided on drugmaker Merck's website was incorrect. Local vets offer the vaccine, but not at the discounted rates publicized by the drugmaker. For questions about pricing and scheduling, please contact your veterinarian.