Flu isn't just for humans; dogs can get it, too

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A sick husky gets a medical exam.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The flu isn't just a pain for humans this season. Dogs are getting canine influenza, too.

The highly contagious respiratory infection is bad in just a few parts of the country - California, Kentucky and Ohio, in particular - and is not as widespread as the human flu, according to Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine, which is monitoring reported cases.

"Canine flu is currently experiencing intense flare-ups in defined geographic locations," Amy Glaser, director of the Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory at Cornell's Animal Health Diagnostic Center, told Time.

In California, six dogs have tested positive for the canine influenza H3N2 virus in the last 45 days, Cornell reported.

That is not the H3N2 afflicting humans. There are two strains of dog flu: H3N2 and H3N8, first reported in the United States in 2004. It is very rare for dogs to catch the human flu. There's also no evidence that humans can get it from dogs.

While cases of dog flu have been reported in most states, that doesn't signal outbreaks and shouldn't cause alarm, Michael Topper, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, told Time.

"We mostly see sporadic cases, and occasionally we see an outbreak in specific regions," Topper said.

"Back in 2015, there was a big outbreak involving hundreds of dogs in Chicago and other areas of the Midwest, and last year it was diagnosed in some dogs in the southeast that had attended dog shows."

Because canine influenza is still relatively new in the United States and dogs haven't been exposed to it, virtually all dogs lack immunity and are susceptible, regardless of age or breed the veterinary group said. Puppies, elderly or pregnant dogs can be at higher risk.

Nearly every dog that is exposed to the virus will get it, though most will develop mild symptoms. Most dogs recover in two to three weeks, and canine influenza is rarely fatal.

Dogs suffering from a mild case will develop a soft, moist cough that continues for 10 to 30 days, according to the AVMA website.

They might appear lethargic - dog-tired. Their appetite might drop off, and they might run a fever. They might sneeze and experience discharges from their eyes and/or nose.

More severe cases could involve a high fever and signs of pneumonia, such as difficulty breathing.

Dogs that are exposed frequently or regularly to other dogs are at greater risk of coming into contact with the virus, the national vet group said. Think dog parks, animal shelters, doggie day care, dog shows and boarding facilities.

If your dog shows symptoms or you think it might be sick, the AVMA recommends consulting your veterinarian.

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