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West Valley City Journal

Veterinarians stress vaccination for prevention of canine flu

Nov 03, 2017 02:20PM ● By Keyra Kristoffersen

Sharon Hogan’s cocker spaniel, Copper, gets vaccinated during a vaccine clinic with Dr. Sara Shaw and Shirley Savage. (Keyra Kristoffersen/City Journals)

With the recent influx of animals being brought to Utah from Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey by shelters like Best Friends Animal Society and Community Animal Welfare Society, concern has been expressed about how to best care for these animals and keep local pets safe from strains of disease they might not be inoculated against, particularly canine flu. 

“These animals are coming into the area, which is great, however we know that there’s different strains of disease in those areas versus ours,” said Monica Dunlap, practice manager at West Valley Veterinary Clinic, which held a vaccine clinic on October 7. 

After hearing on the news that some animals would be coming into Utah and being adopted, the staff at the clinic began talking about the possibility of unfamiliar strains and diseases not normally seen in Utah. One of their technicians had volunteered during Hurricane Katrina and was aware how the health of animals could be affected by the transfer system.

“With the movement of animals coming into the area, there’s a lot of disease that maybe we don’t have in the area, that we anticipate coming,” said Dunlap. “We support the animals coming here, we just also believe that current pet owners should be vaccinating now.”

Texas veterinarians contacted several shelters and other vets to let them know that cases of Lyme disease, heart worm, and some fungi had been noted in dogs that were being rescued and removed, as well as the highly contagious canine flu. 

“We have been encouraging our clients to vaccinate against the canine flu but we decided to hold the vaccine clinic as a way to push for it, even if you’re not our client, please come in and get the vaccine,” said Dunlap.

Canine flu is an extremely contagious influenza virus that is passed from dog to dog through nasal and respiratory secretions like sneezing, coughing and breathing in close quarters. The symptoms are similar to a persistent and extreme kennel cough, with sneezing, coughing, fever, nasal and ocular discharge that becomes worse and continues longer than kennel cough. If left untreated, the canine flu can lead to bacterial pneumonia. 

“The mortality rate is really low, but the morbidity rate is really high,” said Dr. Kim Ingraham, one of the veterinarians at West Valley Veterinary Clinic. Death rates are low, but if exposed, a dog will most likely be infected. “There are two different influenza strains and we are recommending getting the vaccine on both of those.”

Ingraham said that the canine flu is not common in the western United States and is unaware of a case in Utah. The canine flu can only be passed between dogs, it cannot be passed to humans or other species, but can be an expensive disease for pet parents if not treated quickly or avoided altogether. Treatment includes antibiotics, chest x-rays, testing, IV fluids and quarantine at a specialty veterinary hospital equipped to handle that type of isolation like Advanced Veterinary Care or Blue Pearl in the Salt lake valley, said Ingraham. 

“Because of that, we decided we could at least educate our clientele and if they decided, you know what, we’re probably safe, they could decide. Our job is to educate,” said Ingraham.  

The clinic offered vaccines at a cost of $12 to $25, depending on the type of vaccine, like rabies and Bordetella, and waived the normal exam fee for cats and dogs. The clinic is also donating a portion of each vaccine to Utah shelters taking in animals from Texas to help in treating them and adopting them out. 

“We’ve had interest from people who weren’t aware that canine flu existed,” said Dunlap. “It’s still a good thing that the animals are coming here and that’s why we’re also raising money to support.”

The West Valley Veterinary Clinic, 3875 W. 3500 South, has been open for over 25 years and has three veterinarians on staff.