RI veterinarians: Canine influenza present in state

The Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association says canine influenza virus is present in the state.

The virus was diagnosed in a Providence kennel and day care center in April. The state veterinarian was helping the center, which was not named in a news release, to manage the disease. The outbreak was originally thought to be kennel cough, the RIVMA said.

The RIVMA said the strain is causing mild symptoms, including mild cough and nasal discharge. It said the dogs have responded to antibiotics or other medication.

CIV symptoms are similar to kennel cough, which is a bacterial infection. A blood test is usually necessary to confirm dog flu.

"It's actually not that common. When there is an outbreak I think people get worried about it," said Dr. Jennifer Fish of the Rhode Island Animal Medical Center.

The Rhode Island Department of Environment Management said it knows of three confirmed dog flu cases. Two of the dogs are from Rhode Island and one is from Massachusetts. Four confirmed cases of CIV were reported in Essex County, Massachusetts, which is north of Boston.

The RIVMA said dog owners should consider vaccinating their dogs against canine influenza virus, especially if they are boarded at a kennel or day care, use dog parks, go to shows or spend time around other dogs. Officials said dog owners should talk to their vet about the risks and benefits of vaccination.

"When you're in the high density operations with all those dogs, it can spread very quickly," Fish said.

Canine influenza is contagious among dogs, but it cannot spread to people.