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Veterinarian warns of dog flu risks

In a particularly rough year for the flu, pet owners should keep in mind potential concerns from the dog flu.

Dr. Sandra Faeh, former president of the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association, said the dog flu comes in two strains and is very contagious.

“Canine influenza, or what we call the dog flu, is a really contagious viral infection that affects dogs, but also affects cats,” Faeh said. “There are two strains of that in the United States.”

Faeh said in Illinois, services are being limited at the Animal Welfare League in Chicago Ridge because of what officials there say is an influenza outbreak.

Faeh said that like the flu humans get, dog flu has the potential to be deadly.

“They definitely can be fatal,” Faeh said. “Typically, we will see coughing, sneezing and a fever, pretty lethargic and not wanting to eat. The American Veterinary Medical Association said about 10 percent of cases are fatal.”

Faeh said the majority of dogs and cats will start showing symptoms by coughing and should be taken to a veterinarian as soon as symptoms are noticed. Veterinarians will do a full body exam, including taking a temperature and potentially X-rays or a nasal swab.

Faeh said any additional pets might already be exposed if one already has the flu, but owners can keep their pets out of the way of other animals in public.

“It’s probably more important just to keep them from other dogs that they do not live with, like avoiding dog parks, day care, boarding, grooming and even just taking them to the pet store,” Faeh said.

Unlike the human flu, dogs do not typically experience nausea, Faeh said. She said it is important to complete a two-step vaccination process.

“Definitely vaccinate your pets,” Faeh said. “It is a two-shot series, so you give one, come back two to four weeks later and get the second shot, and then it is not 100 percent effective until two weeks out.”

— Illinois News Network

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