As more dogs get sick, Montgomery Co. urges dog owners to consider skipping dog parks

More dogs in the DC area are getting sick, and the Montgomery County Animal Services Office is encouraging pet owners to consider skipping dog parks until the dog flu spike begins to abate .

More dogs in the DC area are getting sick, and the Montgomery County Animal Services Office in Maryland is encouraging pet owners to consider skipping dog parks until the dog flu peaks begins to decrease.

Suspected cases of canine flu are on the rise, and the disease is so widespread and severe that veterinarians last month advised dog owners to keep pets away from other dogs in places such as dog parks, nurseries and dog boarding.

“Dogs that visit dog parks, dog daycares or are boarded when their owners travel are at higher risk,” the Montgomery County Animal Services office said in a statement.



The highly contagious disease is caused by a specific strain of the type A influenza virus.

Symptoms include cough, runny nose, runny eyes, fever, lethargy and lack of appetite.

“Signs vary in severity from no signs at all to severe illness, sometimes resulting in death,” the animal services office said.

At a North Bethesda dog park, people were aware of the rise in cases, but they didn’t seem overly concerned about it.

“We’ve already had her vaccinated for that, so it’s business as usual,” dog owner Ben Taylor said. “We had to do dog daycare and it required it, so we had to get it.”

Another dog owner, Lauren McCullough, said she would monitor for any possible symptoms.

“We haven’t had any issues so far, but if we did, we’d be out for a few months,” McCullough said. “Most of the dogs that come here are puppies, and sometimes they come before their first shots and stuff like that, so it can be a bit of a hot spot.”

The county animal services office has urged dog owners to ask their veterinarians about the canine flu vaccine.

“Although the vaccine will not completely prevent a dog from getting the virus, it will reduce its severity and help reduce the spread,” the office said.

If a dog is diagnosed with canine flu, it should be separated from other animals for at least 28 days.

Most dogs recover in two to three weeks, but some can develop secondary bacterial infections, leading to more serious illness.

As for people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there were no reported cases of the canine flu virus spreading from dogs to humans.

Mike Murillo of WTOP contributed to this report.

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