Montgomery County Office of Animal Services warns dog owners of rising cases of canine influenza. Credit: Getty Images

Cases of canine influenza virus have been reported by several veterinary practices in Montgomery County and the Washington, D.C., area.

The disease is caused by a specific strain of the Type A influenza virus and is highly contagious, according to a county news release. The symptoms include cough, runny nose, eye discharge, fever, lethargy and poor appetite.

Although there have been a few reported deaths in Montgomery County, the mortality rate is low, according to Maria Anselmo, community relations manager for Montgomery County Office of Animal Services.

Anselmo said that certain dogs can be more at risk than others.

“Older dogs, dogs that have other health issues that may compromise their immune system are certainly more at risk,” she said. “Brachycephalic breeds [flat-faces dogs suchs as boxers and pugs], they are also going to be more at risk because anytime something sort of interferes with their breathing, it’s harder for them to breathe.”

Anselmo said veterinarians are not required to report influenza cases, and it’s not something that owners will test their dogs for, so exact statistics on number of cases is difficult to determine. However, as of Jan. 5, there were over 50 cases in Montgomery County, according to Anselmo.


The disease is spread through aerosol respiratory droplets and contaminated surfaces. The disease is not transmissible to people, but it can be spread to dogs through clothing, equipment or on hands. The only way to confirm if your dog has canine influenza is by testing. If dog owners see their dogs displaying symptoms, the Office of Animal Services advises taking them to their vet.

“It’s not just [spread through] direct contact between dogs; they can also exist on surfaces for two days, 48 hours,” Anselmo said. “So, you’re gonna want to avoid that shared water dish that might be at the brewery or winery that you’re visiting with your dog. … It can be on the ground at the dog park.” Petting an infected dog can also transfer the virus to another dog.

An infected dog should not go to dog parks, doggy daycare, or grooming or boarding facilities, according to Anselmo. Dogs and dog owners should socially distance from other dogs and other dog owners.


Veterinarians will determine treatment, Anselmo said, but it normally clears in two to three weeks. The virus isn’t very common and has only been around for a few years, so immunity, especially in this area, is low.

To prevent transmission, county officials also recommend:

  • Preventing dogs from sniffing one another.
  • Avoiding boarding, daycare, dog parks and groomers, if possible.

Although there has been an increase in cases, Anselmo says dog owners shouldn’t panic, and there is a vaccine for the virus.


“You should talk to your veterinarian as to whether your dog should get the vaccine,” she said. “If you’ve got a couch potato that never interacts with other dog, your veterinarian might know your dog doesn’t really need this right now.”

Anselmo says that dogs up for adoption at the Office of Animal Services are healthy.

“We don’t currently have the canine influenza virus in our shelters,” Anselmo said. “We’ve got a whole bunch of healthy dogs that are available for adoption. We’re being very vigilant and keeping an eye on all dogs coming in. We are vaccinating for the canine influenza virus. … The more animals that’s out of here, the less likely there is for there to be an outbreak of significant size in our building.”