Bringing Fido to First Friday? Lakeland vet warns dogs not vaccinated against dog flu may want to stay home

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This year, the dog days might be better without the dogs.

Since a highly contagious form of dog flu, the H3N2 virus, has arrived in Florida, a University of Florida veterinarian who identified the virus in 2004 has encouraged all dog owners to get their dogs vaccinated.

And for those dogs that haven’t, it’s advised they skip out and stay home during the Downtown Lakeland Partnership’s September First Friday event Sept. 1.

Dr. Donna McWilliams, veterinarian at Lakeland’s My Pet’s Animal Hospital, said there are cases of canine influenza in Polk County — most recently one diagnosed in Winter Haven — but none has been found at her clinic. She said she’s concerned September’s First Friday, which is themed “Dog Days Downtown,” will be a way to enhance the spread of the virus among unvaccinated dogs to other dogs.

McWilliams said her clinic has a special examination room and isolation ward for any dogs diagnosed with H3N2. She’s recommending visitors for First Friday who do bring pets shouldn’t group dogs together.

“I felt like no one was noticing this could be a problematic issue for influencing the spread of (flu) transmission from dog to dog,” she said.

According to UF Health News, the symptoms of the H3N2 flu include sneezing, nasal discharge and frequent coughing that can last two or more weeks.

Many dogs also have a fever, decreased appetite and lethargy during the first few days. Some dogs can develop life-threatening pneumonia.

Infected cats will develop sneezing and nasal discharge, but not usually a cough. Cats can also develop pneumonia.

Lori Long, executive director for Downtown Lakeland Partnership, said she has spoken to McWilliams about her concern and decided to get proactive…