DeLand may be at center of Central Florida dog flu outbreak

DeLand dog owners and experts are on high alert after news came out that a dog flu outbreak came from a dog show held there.

The University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine confirmed this week that more than a dozen cases of the H3N2 Canine Virus showed up in dogs that attended shows in Perry, Georgia and in DeLand. Local veterinarians and members of the show community say the DeLand event was held at the Volusia County Fairgrounds on May 21st; put on by a local branch of the Dog Fanciers Association.

Dr. Pamela Schrager from the Florida Wild Veterinary Hospital in DeLand said she was called to the event when one dog started showing symptoms.

"Coughing and nasal discharge and fever,” said Schrager.

It wasn’t until that dog was seen at the University of Florida that the diagnosis of H3N2 was made, Schrager said.

Since that news came out Schrager’s office, and many other vets in the community have started hanging warning signs and treating pets in the parking lot if they are showing the symptoms of the flu. She said the illness is simply too contagious to risk bringing through the door.

"Certainly the dog can spread the virus, but it can get on the people's clothes or their shoes and it continues to be contagious for about a day after they get it on their clothes or their shoes,” said Dr. Schrager.

Her staff members who normally bring their dogs to work are also being asked to keep them at home until the outbreak dies down.

Cathy Driggers from the West Volusia Kennel Club said she’s stayed in close contact with the organizers of that show as well as people who had their dogs there and potentially came into contact.

"Just today one of my friends that attended the show has, 3 out of 4 of her dogs has this now,” said Driggers.

She said many who regularly show their dogs are pulling out of upcoming events due to the risk right now.

Driggers said for organizations that operate as non-profits and get their yearly budgets from these shows, the situation is a major hit. She said many who show dogs professionally are also seeing a hit as they have to make the tough decision to keep dogs on the sidelines that could be carrying the illness.

Dr. Schrager said H3N2 can remain asymptomatic in some dogs and remain contagious without actually showing any signs.

The strain is new to Florida but was responsible for a 2015 outbreak in Chicago.

Dr. Schrager said there is a vaccine that can be given to at-risk dogs if the illness isn’t already in their system, but few in the area would have received that.  She said in rare cases H3N2 can even be fatal to dogs. While Schrager urges dog owners not to panic, she said the illness needs to be taken seriously.

The American Kennel Club said this strand can remain contagious in dogs for up to 28 days. It’s recommended that exposed dogs simply stay home and they and their owners remain away from other dogs for that time.

Driggers is advising her members to take all precautions to end the outbreak. She is recommending owners keep their dogs out of spots like dog parks and other places they could come in contact with other dogs until the outbreak ends.

The International All Breed Canine Association also held a recent dog show in the area; last weekend in Orlando. In a statement today they said that none of their dogs have been reported ill so far and they took extra cleaning precautions to help ensure safety.