Memphis vet warns of potentially lethal dog flu

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - You or someone you know have probably caught the flu a time or two, but what about your dog?

Mike Barnes said when it comes to keeping his dog "Cooter" healthy, he takes plenty of precautions.

"He has a lot of allergies, so he gets that Benadryl," Barnes said.
But one thing that's never crossed his mind is the dog flu.
"As for the dog flu, that's a new one for me," Barnes said.
Dr. Charles Halford--a veterinarian at Walnut Grove Animal Clinic in Memphis--said the dog flu is very real.
"It's an upper respiratory viral disease that causes sneezing, congestion, and sometimes pneumonia," Halford said. "Usually these dogs are really sick. There's a really high fever. A lot of times, they'll be vomiting because they're just so sick."
Because the disease is contagious, he said dogs most at risk are those who socialize with a lot of other dogs.
While dogs in 46 states have caught the flu over the last decade, only a handful of cases have ever been reported in Tennessee, and those were near the Knoxville area.
Some veterinarians say the dog flu is nothing more than manufactured hype, designed to scare dog owners into a frenzy.
Halford, who was the president of the Tennessee Veterinary Medical Association, disagrees.

"There's a high mortality rate to this disease, so I don't think, that's not safe advice to say it's hype," he said.

While there have been no cases in Shelby County, Halford said it's important for dog owners to know the risks, and talk to their vets about getting their dog vaccinated.

"In my opinion, every dog should be vaccinated who has a responsible pet owner," he said.

As for Mike Barnes, it's something he intends to learn more about because for him, keeping man's best friend safe is a top priority.

Copyright 2018 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.