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You've heard about the dog flu virus, but may not know much about it. Read on to learn how it's contracted, what the symptoms are and what to do if you suspect your dog may have it. 

What is it and how did it get here?

Last spring, the highly contagious canine influenza H3N2 arrived in Chicago by an infected dog traveling from South Korea and since then, thousands of dogs in 26 states have been infected. There is a second Type A canine influenza, H3N8, which originated in horses and has been in the US longer, however it is not easily spread as the newer H3N2 flu virus. 

What are the symptoms?

Mild symptoms of canine influenza include a cough, runny nose, loss of appetite and fatigue. Severe symptoms include difficulty breathing, a high fever and complications like pneumonia and sometimes death. Those most susceptible to severe flu symptoms are very young and very old dogs; those with weaker immune systems. 

How could my dog "catch" the flu? 

The dog flu virus is spread from dog to dog by aerosolized respiratory secretions, like sneezing, coughing, panting, etc. The onset of infection will be 2-3 days after exposure. 

What to do?

Joseph Kinnarney, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, recommends dogs get vaccinated against the H3N2 virus IF the dogs are in frequent contact with other dogs. Dogs who go to daycare, play in dog parks, participate in agility and other dog events,  and travel frequently with their owners are encouraged to get protection against the virus. We first recommend always discussing this option with your vet, as he/she will know of any outbreaks and current risks in your area. I called my vet, Hyannis Animal Hospital and they report that they have not had any reported cases as of this date.

To sum it up: 

The Canine Influenza exists. It's real, you should be aware of it, talk to your vet about it. If your dog shows any symptoms be like me and err on the side of caution: make that trip to the vet! It's a cliché but it's always better to be safe than sorry!

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