Jan 24, 2023 - News

How to protect your pets during flu season

Illustration of dog treats spelling out “HELP”.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Pet owners should take extra precautions to reduce the risk of their puppers catching the sniffles this winter.

Why it matters: This winter's outbreak of upper respiratory illnesses among dogs has overwhelmed local animal shelters, vet clinics and boarding facilities.

  • "This has been all over Dallas-Fort Worth," Dallas Animal Services spokeswoman Marlo Clingman tells Axios.

Threat level: Upper respiratory illnesses among dogs aren't usually fatal, but puppies, older dogs and dogs with compromised immune systems can have a hard time with them.

  • Symptoms include coughing, a runny nose, fever, lethargy, eye discharge, and reduced appetite.
  • Dogs usually just have to ride out the illness and give it time, but they can be shown to a vet if needed.

The big picture: The ongoing dog flu is yet another hurdle for local animal shelters that were already dealing with high counts and slow adoptions.

  • Dallas Animal Services had just recovered from a distemper outbreak late last year when they were hit with the dog flu.
  • They've spent the last few months working with the University of Wisconsin at Madison's veterinary medicine school to coordinate a "clean break" among their dogs, housing exposed dogs in a separate area from others.

Of note: Cats can get the flu too but that isn't as common as with dogs.

What's next: Clingman says Dallas Animal Services remains "way over capacity," with just over 400 dogs in need of a new home.

  • Most North Texas cities, including Denton, Dallas and Fort Worth, offer perks for adopting a pet through their animal shelter. Fostering is also an option.

Be prepared: Dallas Animal Services advises socially distancing your dog from other dogs — just like humans had to at the start of the COVID pandemic — and keeping them away from high-risk areas like boarding facilities, dog parks and pet stores.

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