Veterinarians are urging dog owners to get their pets vaccinated against canine influenza due to a surge in cases reported in several parts of the U.S. this winter.

Canine influenza, also known as the dog flu, is a contagious respiratory disease in dogs caused by specific Type A influenza viruses known to infect dogs, and is different from the seasonal influenza viruses that spread annually among people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the vast majority of cases, it is not considered life-threatening, the CDC said.

Some regions have seen a rise in cases this winter, including Philadelphia, North Texas and Minneapolis.

Symptoms for dog flu include a cough, runny nose, fever and reduced appetite, according to the CDC. Most dogs usually recover from canine influenza within 2 to 3 weeks, but in more severe cases some dogs can develop secondary bacterial infections that can lead to more severe illnesses or pneumonia, the CDC said.

“We’re really looking for changes of their behavior,” veterinary microbiologist Stephen Cole told CBS News Thursday. “Are they acting listless, or lethargic, or not wanting to eat? In addition, keeping a close eye on their respiratory rate: Are they breathing faster? And their respiratory effort: Are they needing to take deeper breaths to catch their breaths?”

Veterinarians urge owners to seek professional care when symptoms arise, as the disease can be confused with kennel cough.

Owners who observe dogs coughing, sneezing or exhibiting nasal discharge should seek medical attention for their pooch, Dr. Gary Richter, a veterinarian and pet health expert on Rover’s Dog People Panel, advised in an interview with PopSugar.

All dogs are susceptible to the flu, no matter their breed or size. An infected dog can spread the virus to canine friends by direct contact; barking, coughing or sneezing; contaminated objects, such as collars and leashes; and “by people moving between infected and uninfected dogs,” according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Richter says dogs will often be treated with antibiotics.

“The symptoms of canine influenza can initially look very similar to kennel cough, but there is a laboratory test that can confirm the diagnosis,” Richter told PopSugar.

There are eight interesting facts related to dog flu.

1) Dog flu is a respiratory disease in dogs, and it’s contagious.

2) There are two different dog flu viruses: one is an H3N8 virus and the other is an H3N2 virus.

3) The virus was known to exist in horses for more than 40 years and spread from horses to dogs.

4) The first cases of dog flu in the United States were found in greyhounds in 2004.

5) Dog flu spreads through respiratory droplets produced during coughing and sneezing from infected dogs.

6) Doggie hotels, groomers, and dog parks can be hot spots for the virus.

7) Cats and other animals can also become infected with the H3N2 strain of the virus.

8) There have been no reported dog flu infections in people and is considered a low threat, according to CDC data.


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