The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said in a Facebook post on Monday, 14 May, that it went down to Pasir Ris to investigate cases of kennel cough after receiving reports about it. Its findings, however, revealed that the pooches were actually infected with dog flu instead. This has led to the lockdown of six shelters. As of now, only caretakers are allowed to enter the premises.

Dr Francis Tay, a veterinarian from Ohana VetCare, believes that it is possible that the dog flu can spread beyond the Pasir Ris Shelters.

Canine influenza, or dog flu, is a type of flu that infects canines. It primarily infects the respiratory system of pups and is highly contagious. Symptoms of dog flu include cough, runny nose, fever, lethargy, eye discharge and reduced appetite. “Not all pups will show the full suite of these signs or any at all,” says Dr Tay. The virus spreads much like how a regular flu would—through coughing and sneezing where respiratory secretions become airborne. It can also spread through objects contaminated by the same secretions by infected pups. “The secretions of affected dogs contain the virus which may remain infectious in the environment or on human hands for one to two days,” adds Dr Tay.

“Canine influenza is typically not life-threatening, and most dogs recover within two to three weeks,” says AVA’s official statement on their Facebook page. However, puppies, elderly dogs and canines with pre-existing illnesses can be badly affected by dog flu, leading to pneumonia. Unfortunately, shelters are mostly filled with pups that fit this description. “The risk of canine influenza is highest when large numbers of pooches are housed together in close confinement,” AVA goes on to add. The shelters are giving the affected pups antibiotics and honey to handle the illness.

Vets have added that they have seen cases of privately owned furkids with canine influenza as well. Dr Tay advises paw-rents to monitor their pets for signs of illness. Paw-rents should also practice good hygiene to minimise the risk of spreading the disease. “This includes washing their hands with soap and water, before and after coming into contact with dogs and their immediate environment,” says AVA. If unsure, it’s best to consult your vet.