JP Pritchard

Does Your Dog Need a Flu Shot?

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Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Dog owners may be vigilant when it comes to protecting their pooches from rabies and heartworm disease, but veterinarians in certain parts of the country are sounding the alarm about canine influenza, which is on the rise in some areas.

There are outbreaks of dog flu right now in the New York metropolitan area and near San Antonio, Texas, and other states have reported epidemics throughout the year. Since the virus, known as H3N8, was first identified in 2004, thousands of dogs in 38 states have become sick with the flu, and veterinarians say that number continues to climb.

“We’re seeing an increasing number of dogs being affected by this virus,” said Dr. Cynda Crawford, clinical assistant professor in shelter medicine at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Canine influenza is endemic in several states, including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Colorado. But like the virus that causes the flu in humans, the dog flu virus is very easily spread and highly contagious.

The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that dogs that are in frequent contact with other dogs be vaccinated against canine influenza to help prevent the spread.

As with the human form of the illness, dogs that have the flu will experience coughing, nasal discharge, a low-grade fever and sneezing.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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