Veterinarians are warning pet owners to watch out as America experiences a serious dog flu outbreak.
The dog flu, or canine influenza, has been identified in 46 states and even Canada, and animal experts worry pet owners don't know enough about the condition.
The disease has been common in Asia for years, but only spread to the United States from South Korea in 2015. Since then, there have been a number of large outbreaks, including when 1,000 dogs from the Chicago area caught the virus.
Jodie Strait, a dog show competitor whose pets caught the virus, called the disease "unreal."
"It was the worst nightmare that could ever happen," she remembered. "I went to a dog show with my dogs and I almost killed them."
Until now, only owners like Strait who competed in large dog shows had to worry about the canine flu. But now the disease is spreading through the country's kennels, dog parks, and from pooch to pooch.
Vets are warning owners to learn the signs of dog flu, and how to prevent your pet from catching it.
While humans aren't affected by the dog flu, an infected dog's symptoms are very similar to human flu cases.
You should watch out for these signs:
- Runny nose and eyes
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Decreased appetite
- Difficulty breathing
Unlike human flu, the dog flu can spread year-round. It passes from one animal to the next by the liquid from their noses, and by sharing contaminated objects like chew toys and food bowls.
Humans can also spread the flu to their pet, so if you think you've touched a sick animal, it's important to wash your hands.
While all dogs can catch the virus, senior dogs already living with heart or breathing conditions are the most at risk.
In most cases the dog flu is mild, but it can cause dangerous infections, pneumonia, leave permanent chronic conditions like lung disease, and even kill dogs.
There is a dog flu vaccine which you can get at your vet, and it is effective against the current strain of the virus. If you think your dog has the canine flu, you should take your dog to the vet for a blood test.
Of course it's also important to protect other animals: call ahead to warn your vet that your pet may be infected, and if you know they have the flu keep them quarantined from other pets for at least two weeks.
If we all know how to handle the dog flu, we can keep it under control!