Hastings Prince Edward Public Health is alerting pet owners about the potential for their animals to contract avian flu after interacting with wild birds.
This follows the recent death of a dog in Oshawa, Ont., after it had been chewing on a wild goose. A necropsy report said the dog had displayed classic symptoms of bird flu virus.
Public health says cases of avian flu in pets are uncommon but can happen when pets come in contact with wild birds.
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Sandy Pines Wildlife Center in Napanee, Ont., says they haven’t seen any cases of bird flu coming through their facility so far.
“We’ve had several cases that have similar symptoms,” says Leah Birmingham, medical director at Sandy Pines. “We’ve suspected it, but nothing that’s tested positive at this point.”
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Public health says although avian flu is rarely spread to people, pet owners should still be wary of the disease.
“It is important to reduce the chance of transmission of this virus and protect our pets and domestic livestock by ensuring that they have no contact with wild birds or other potentially infected animals,” said Dr. Ethan Toumishey, medical officer of health at Hastings Prince Edward Public Health.
Birmingham says there are some signs for people to be aware of that a wild bird could be suffering from avian flu.
“Sometimes it looks like they’re drunk, they can’t walk properly,” she says. “They’re having difficulty moving around. They probably can’t fly away when a predator approaches them, which is how somebody’s dog is going to get them in the first place.”
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Anyone who does come across a wild bird that is exhibiting these signs should contact their municipality and the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative so that an organization like Sandy Pines can come to take care of the bird properly.
“If you just leave them out there to die, they’re just contaminating the area more,” says Birmingham.
“Whereas if they’re brought here when they’re dying and we help them along and then we can properly dispose of them, so they’re not in the general public potentially causing a hazard.”
According to public health, there has never been a human case of avian flu in Canada. Still, they advise pet owners to be on alert when taking their pets outside.
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