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LA County dog flu outbreak concerning Central Coast dog owners

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Angel Russell

A large outbreak of canine influenza in Los Angeles County is causing concern for pet owners in San Luis Obispo County, with cases starting to show up locally.

The dog flu, or canine influenza, is an infectious respiratory disease caused by an Influenza virus, similar to viral strains that cause influenza in people.

Pismo Beach Veterinary Clinic is often busy with owners seeking care for their pets, but lately, Dr. Joel Conn said even more people have been calling the office with concerns about the dog flu.

“We haven’t had a major outbreak in this area since about 2016, 2017-ish," Conn said. "But there has been a fairly large outbreak in LA County, and so we are seeing some of that start to hit SLO County.”

L.A. County Department of Public Health said so far there are 800 confirmed cases and seven deaths from the dog flu.

In SLO County, there have been five confirmed cases but no deaths reported.

“There’s a couple of veterinarians up in North County who believe they’ve seen more cases than that," Conn said. "That’s kind of expected, that we would continue to see that caseload grow.”

But Dr. Conn said dog owners shouldn’t panic about the spread, especially if their dog doesn’t interact with other dogs often. But, if your dog gets a lot of social interaction with other dogs, you may want to be cautious.

“These are dogs that are going to kennels, traveling a lot, going to dog parks," Conn said. "Really, having nose-to-nose interactions with strange dogs on a regular basis.”

Dr. Conn said most dogs who get sick from canine influenza develop mild symptoms and can recover in two or three weeks. In rare cases, it can be fatal.

For pet owners who think their dog may be at risk, there is a vaccine for the dog flu.

“The one we recommend and use is called a bivalent vaccine, so it covers both strains of the flu virus, Conn said. "Kind of like our flu vaccine, it’s not 100 percent effective, but it has been shown to dramatically reduce severe side effects.”

Dr. Conn encourages people to stay on alert for symptoms, and if you suspect your dog may have the virus, call your local veterinarian for what to do next.

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