Outbreak of canine flu prompts facilities to require vaccinations for dogs


Rebecca Olmos,
Staff Writer

Atlas is my two-year-old dog that is half husky and half golden retriever. He’s about 70 pounds, full of energy and sheds his long black and white hairs all over my car, furniture and clothing. I bathe him every few weeks to keep him clean and help with his shredding but in November I took him to get professionally groomed at Dr. Dave’s Doggie Day Care and Grooming in Saratoga.

A recent outbreak of canine influenza, or dog flu, at Dr. Dave’s second location in Campbell caused them to close for two weeks in February. The staff worked to disinfect the facility and then required all their returning clients have their canine influenza vaccination. There have been 413 reported cases of dog flu throughout California and parts of Nevada since Dec. 27, 2017, according to the most recent report from the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA).

Like most doggie daycares, boarding facilities and grooming centers, Dr. Dave’s require all new and returning clients to have proof of their updated vaccinations. The canine influenza vaccination is the newest vaccination Dr. Dave’s is requiring before boarding or grooming dogs.

“I recommended it [the vaccination] for three months prior to this [recent outbreak],” veterinarian for more than 30 years and owner of Dr. Dave’s, Dr. David Reed told the Pioneer. “I should’ve said it’s required. But we try to avoid people getting upset with us because now they got to get a vaccine and come in. But the other side of it is those that say ‘Well, nobody told me about it and now my dog is sick.’ It’s a balancing act. I just should’ve had more courage and said those that don’t want to do it find someplace else to go. Those that want to protect your dog and protect the other dogs, get it done.”

Vaccination may not be right for every dog. It’s more of “lifestyle” vaccine for dogs who spend time in communal facilities. Vaccinating a dog may not even prevent them from getting the flu at all, but it can help reduce the severity and length of the sickness according to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation.

The dog flu usually starts with some type of respiratory problem like coughing or sneezing. Other signs of illness include a fever, fatigue, eye discharge and loss of appetite according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

San Jose has had 48 reported cases since January according to the CVMA. Fremont, Union City and Milpitas have only had four reported cases in their cities combined. Atlas spends a lot of time around other dogs in some of these same neighborhoods. We visit different dog parks, I take him daycare and I get groomed from time to time.

When you enter Dr. Dave’s, there’s a sign that reads “Shakin’ paws & kissin’ dogs”. This is ironic because that’s exactly how the dog flu spreads. Similar to the spread of the flu virus in humans, the dog flu is highly contagious and mobile. It can spread through direct contact, like kissing or licking, through the air by coughing and sneezing, the use of contaminated objects like water bowls or toys and through human contact by pet owners or vets, according to dogflu.com.

Dr. Gregory Anderson of the Calaveras Veterinary Clinic, has worked as a veterinarian for 40 years. Since January, he’s only seen three dogs, two of which had to be hospitalized because they suffered from the canine influenza virus.

“We’re kind of in that nervous beginning phase,” Dr. Anderson told The Pioneer. “The businesses that do boarding and daycare and grooming they’re all kind of worried and so because there is a vaccine they’re requiring it in those settings. I’m not telling every one of my clients to go out and get this vaccine because I’m not convinced it’s necessary. But if you’re in that world where you need meet the needs of others it’s ultimately fairly cheap insurance at the moment.”

The vaccine is administered in two shots two weeks apart. Each shot ranges from $25-$35 depending on the location and most clinics will administer the shot to your dog in the car or in the clinic lobby.

I decided to get Atlas his vaccination because there are no side effects primarily. However, there is a possibility he could come in contact with the virus now that is been reported in the Bay Area and the potential to pay a lot more money for other treatments if he did contract the virus.