SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — It’s flu season, but not just for people.
As the warm weather dies down, the largest recorded outbreak of canine influenza is sweeping through Los Angeles County.
At the Santa Barbara Humane Society, its staff recently decided to vaccinate all the dogs at the Santa Barbara and Santa Maria locations.
“Because of a minor shutdown of one of the LA shelters, we decided on Saturday to vaccinate all of our animals,” Santa Barbara Humane chief veterinary officer Katie Marrie said.
Currently, 320 confirmed cases reside in LA County.
As of now, zero confirmed cases are in Santa Barbara County.
However, five dogs are sick in San Luis Obispo County while four are ill in Ventura County.
The virus is similar to the common flu; causing coughing, sneezing and a lack of appetite.
Santa Barbara County Animal Services director of shelter medicine Ginger White has been keeping a close eye on the rapid transmission of this virus.
“The main symptoms are a cough, not feeling well, not as energetic, not as active and perhaps not wanting to eat very much,” she said.
In the canine community, this flu often spreads in places like boarding facilities, doggy daycares or even parks.
“It is a contagious condition that dogs mostly catch from being around other dogs,” White said.
“That’s how this virus passes, from dog to dog,” Marrie said. “Sharing water bowls, sniffing and interacting with each other.”
Both veterinarians are advising all animal owners to be on the lookout for this highly contagious virus.
“The only way to get a diagnosis is by seeing the veterinarian and having pretty specific swab testing done,” White said. “The test needs to be sent out to a laboratory, which can take a couple of days to get results.”
In order to slow down transmission, Marrie recommends that dogs that get sick spend a month in quarantine.
“If your dog is not feeling great, keep your dog home for a few weeks,” she said. “That’s the best way to stop this from spreading.”
There's also a widely available two-dose vaccine that must be spread out at least two weeks apart between each shot.
“It really is a good idea to get vaccinated, especially with how close this outbreak is to us,” White concluded.
To schedule an appointment for a canine influenza vaccine, you can click here.