Dog flu, also known as canine influenza, is becoming more common in certain regions of the United States.

According to CBS News, there has been a significant increase in reported cases of dog flu in Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and North Texas this winter. Due to this, several veterinarians are advising pet owners to have their dogs vaccinated against this highly contagious respiratory illness.

Dr. Lori Teller, the president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), has emphasized that unlike human flu dog flu can be spread throughout the year. In a previous interview with PEOPLE, Dr. Teller highlighted this important distinction.

 “Outbreaks of canine influenza flare up from time to time,” she stated. “The good news now is that there is more awareness and knowledge of the virus, and there are vaccinations available to help protect your dogs.”

Canine Flu Cases on The Rise

Dr. Teller stated that although getting vaccinated may not entirely prevent a dog from getting infected, it can help “lessen the severity and duration of the illness.” Pet owners can discuss the potential benefits and risks of vaccinating their dogs with their veterinarian in order to determine if it’s the right decision for pets.

The CDC did clarify that canine influenza is not a life-threatening illness, and there have been no reported cases of the virus spreading to humans. The milder form of dog flu can cause a persistent cough, sneezing, lethargy, and loss of appetite in dogs. However, more severe cases may lead to high fever and pneumonia. Dog owners are advised to seek immediate veterinary attention if their pets stop eating or experience difficulty breathing.

“The flu is spread by contact from dog to dog. Owners who suspect their dog has the flu should monitor dogs for signs of disease and seek veterinary care if they believe their dog may be sick. This helps to prevent the disease from spreading to healthy dogs,” Dr. Teller stated.

The milder form is treated how humans recover from flu. Dr. Teller stated that “making your dog as comfortable as possible” and ensuring they have “access to good nutrition, fresh water and a quiet place to rest. Most dogs recover from canine influenza within 2-3 weeks.”

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