A flu virus affecting dogs in other parts of the state has spread to Galveston County and the Clear Lake area.
The first confirmed case appeared in July in Webster, according to the Galveston Veterinary Clinic.
Veterinarian offices around the county reported seeing suspected cases of canine influenza in dogs treated at their clinics and believe the number of cases around the county is likely higher than can be counted because identifying the virus is costly.
Dogs with the flu show signs similar to people infected with influenza: runny nose, coughing or difficulty breathing, high fever and lethargy, said Dr. Cindy Marcum, a veterinarian at Sea Paws Veterinarian Services in Bayou Vista.
“Clinics around the county are starting to report single cases, but I feel like the outbreak is bigger than we have numbers on because the testing is expensive,” Marcum said.
The first cases of canine influenza, H3N2, in Texas were reported earlier this spring in Houston, Marcum said. Texas A&M University’s veterinary school has confirmed 13 Texas cases at its College Station facility.
The Canine Influenza Virus Surveillance Network, which tracks cases around the nation, notes 31 Texas cases in the past 45 days, though local vets said that number may be underreported.
Most dogs recover in about two to three weeks, Galveston Veterinary Clinic on 61st Street in Galveston told clients in a letter. But dogs might develop more severe bacterial infections in that time, the letter said.
For dogs with compromised immune systems, including young puppies and elderly dogs, the virus can be deadly, Marcum said. The virus is very contagious, according to the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory.
“It is a highly contagious virus and is spread through direct contact, nasal secretions, contaminated objects and people who have been in contact with the infected dogs,” the Galveston Veterinary Clinic said in the letter.
“The most common symptoms pets will have will be a persistent cough, thick nasal discharge and may be accompanied by lethargy, fever and reduced appetite.”
Marcum recommends pet owners avoid taking their dogs to grooming and boarding clinics and to local dog parks if they are not vaccinated for both strains of canine influenza — H3N2 and H3N8. Local vet offices offer those vaccinations.
Signs have gone up in at least one Galveston boarding center warning pet owners of the possibility of the flu in the area. The Petsmart on Bay Area Boulevard in Webster reportedly disinfected its store after a case was confirmed there.