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Sick as a dog: Vets urge vaccination as boro’s canine-flu cases grow

Feeling ruff: A new strain of canine flu spreading among local pups will only get worse before it gets better, according to local veterinarians.
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This virus is going to the dogs.

A strain of canine influenza that’s infected more than a dozen Kings County canines in recent weeks will only get worse before it gets better, according to a city vet.

“It’s a new virus, so there’s no natural immunities to this,” said Doctor Yasmine Mortsakis, who runs New York Veterinary Practice. “More dogs are going to get sick.”

The H3N2 strain first sprung up stateside three years ago in Chicago, where it struck more than 1,000 pooches that fell ill with symptoms two-legged flu victims would find familiar, including fever, runny nose, and a heavy cough.

And after lingering in the heartland for a spell, Mortsakis said H3N2 — a strain humans cannot catch — landed in Brooklyn on April 30, when the first hapless hound tested positive for the strain before spreading it to 13 others in a matter of weeks.

“The amount of infected dogs is rising pretty rapidly,” she said.

Canine influenza is airborne, and seasonal in the sense that it commonly spreads during warm weather as people spend more time outdoors with their pups, according to Mortsakis, who implored the owners of mutts that have socialized with other furballs to get the beasts vaccinated.

“The more sociable dogs are, the more likely they are to interact with others that may have communicable diseases,” the vet said. “Any dog that goes to day care or a park, or dogs that are walked in group environments, should get vaccinated for sure.”

But dog flu is rarely deadly — although it can be among puppies or older pooches, which are more likely to develop pneumonia after contracting the virus, Mortsakis said. Flat-nosed canines such as pugs and bulldogs also have a harder time fending off influenza due to pre-existing respiratory issues common in certain breeds.

And fortunately, pups can get flu shots from vets that effectively immunize them against the disease — just like those annual inoculations for people — but the big question is will they. One dog owner out for a walk in Brooklyn Bridge Park with her cocker-spaniel mix questioned whether the vaccine is really necessary.

“It’s hard to know when they’re trying to sell you something and when it’s actually real,” said Marcella, a Dumbo resident who refused to give her last name.

But the father of another furball from Brooklyn Heights said the shot is a no-brainer given how prevalent pooches are in the neighborhood.

“There are a lot of dogs in the area and they’re all very interactive,” said Matt Stanley, the proud dad of a black lab. “Keeping my dog safe is a priority.”

And many canine-service providers such as dog walkers require pups to be up to date with vaccinations, including the flu shot, before stepping out with new clients, according to a professional walker leading a pack of canines through Brooklyn Bridge Park.

“They’re not allowed to join our company if they don’t have their vaccinatio­ns,” said Cristal Diaz.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 5:44 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Gina from Brooklyn says:
Scary! Thanks for letting us know about this.
May 22, 6:51 am
Vet from Brooklyn says:
this is fake news folks. two dogs in brooklyn were sick. thats it. these numbers are fake.
May 22, 9 am
2 sick dogs from Park Slope says:
really hope the above vet isn't my vet.. there were two confirmed cases as of two weeks ago. Numbers have grown, at least VERG is being responsible and cautious and not trying to get more dogs sick by ignoring the issue. One of my two dogs has gotten very sick from this and our normal vet told us not to worry, not happy with that advice now that I have been dealing with a very sick pup!!!
Enough with calling anything you don't agree with fake news.
May 23, 7:15 am
2 Dope Shaggy from RealzVille says:
Nope, nope, nope. Vet is correct. This is #fakenews to scare you
May 23, 1:57 pm
Nicole from Brooklyn says:
Not true. I work in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and several cases have been reported. Way more than 2 in Williamsburg and several in Prospect Heights. It is spreading quickly. I don't like over-vaccinating my beloved dog but this was a no-brainer. I am happy I got the vaccine and am going in for the booster shot in three weeks.
May 24, 3:56 pm

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