Rise in dog flu infections worries pet owners; virus confirmed in 46 states

(WSVN) - Dog owners can now get their pets vaccinated with a newly-released drug after an outbreak of canine influenza, or dog flu, has spread throughout the country.

Fox News reports the highly-contagious virus with two different strains has now been confirmed in at least 46 states, including Florida. To view a map of states affected, click here.

Symptoms are similar to kennel cough, and include high fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, cough and runny nose. But veterinarians say the influenza virus is more severe and can even be fatal if not treated properly. Vets can use a blood test to detect the virus.

According to DogFlu.com, dogs have no natural immunity to the two known strains because it is a newer virus. And unlike the flu that affects humans seasonally, dog flu can be spread throughout the year.

Dogs can contract the virus through direct contact, through the air, from contaminated objects like shared bowls or toys, and even from human touch.

“It was the worst nightmare that could ever happen,” dog show hobbyist Jodie Strait told Fox News. “I went to a dog show to show my dogs and I almost killed them.”

Strait said she brought her seven Calabrone Australian Shepherds to a dog show in the spring of 2017, and all of her pets soon became ill.

“At the time we thought it was a simple case of canine kennel cough,” Strait said. “But within a few days all of my dogs were fighting for their lives.”

While all of her dogs survived after receiving treatment, Strait said only one of her seven dogs is still able to compete in dog shows. One dog now suffers from throat issues, she says, while another has permanent lung disease caused by pneumonia, which often develops as a result of the virus.

“If you notice the signs, get in touch with your veterinarian, knowing that this can be a very serious disease and it can cause severe illness,” said Dr. Jennifer Bonovich, a veterinarian. “Some cases do require hospitalization and it can cost several thousand dollars.”

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