ROANOKE, Va. - Pet owners in Roanoke and surrounding areas are being warned to be vigilant about keeping their dogs healthy.
Outbreaks of canine influenza, or dog flu, across the country have local veterinarians urging pet owners to get their dogs vaccinated against the virus.
"We're recommending it just so we don't have an outbreak," said Dr. Kayla Muncy, with VCA Valley Animal Hospital in Roanoke. "Since it is all around us, we’re trying to keep all of our patients healthy and we’d hate to have an outbreak and it’s very contagious."
There have been reports of canine influenza outbreaks in several states, including North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Muncy said canine influenza symptoms are similar to those people experience, such as coughing, sneezing, lethargy and fever. She said most dogs get a mild form of the flu but, in rare cases, it can be deadly.
Dogs that regularly attend dog shows or visit dog parks or kennels are at a greater risk of exposure to the flu.
"I recommend, and our whole clinic is recommending, that if your dog is considered high-risk for exposure that they be vaccinated," Muncy said.
People cannot contract canine influenza.
The Roanoke Police Department's Animal Protection and Services Unit is also warning Roanoke-area pet owners to be vigilant about preventing the spread of parvovirus.
"We just started tracking it and we started seeing these clusters of parvo, and we wanted to know what the common thread was," said Greg Hinkle, animal warden.
Hinkle said there were 22 reports of parvo in the city in the past 18 months, with the majority of the cases in the city's northwest neighborhoods.
Parvovirus is highly contagious and can be deadly. Symptoms include flu-like symptoms, vomiting and diarrhea. It can be transmitted by a person or animal that comes in contact with an infected dog's feces.
Hinkle said it's important to clean up after your pet, and to make sure your dog is up-to-date on its shots.
"The easiest thing is to get vaccinations early, when they’re a puppy, and then continue the vaccinations," Hinkle said.
The Animal Protection and Services Unit is working with Angels of Assisi, a local animal shelter, to provide low-cost parvovirus vaccines to the community. Angels of Assisi is offering $10 parvo vaccines and no office visit fee. Hinkle said the unit is also working to set up mobile clinics to offer vaccinations in the community.
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