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Dog flu is real: Here's what you need to know to keep your pet safe

by Julia Curley / / Source: TODAY

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Many pet lovers treat their furry friends like human companions, but few dog owners understand that this season’s human flu has an equally infectious form for pets.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), “Canine influenza (CI), or dog flu, is a highly contagious viral infection affecting dogs and also cats,” and it’s increasing among the pet population this season.

Multiple strains of dog flu have circulated in dog parks across several states, including Arkansas, Florida, and the Carolinas, as well as Missouri, Colorado, Washington and California.

 The signs of canine influenza are cough, runny nose, fever, lethargy, eye discharge, and reduced appetite, but not all dogs will be symptomatic. Getty Images/Blend Images

Puppy flu affects animals much like its human counterpart but it’s often hard to detect. Even the most devoted dog owners can misinterpret the symptoms — sneezing, coughing, lethargy and fever — as simply a “dog day” of laziness and rest.

According to AVMA, the dog flu spreads through the air similarly to this year’s human influenza.

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“Your pet might be at risk if you frequent dog parks, board your dog, go to the groomer or use pet daycare,” Dr. Phillip Brown, a veterinarian in Springfield, Missouri, told NBC affiliate KWQC.

Flu fear, however, is no reason to miss out on puppy playtime. The virus has been a part of the dog world for years, it’s rarely deadly, and it cannot infect humans.

Even still, Dr. Brown encourages pet owners to vaccinate their dogs with the canine version of a flu shot. And if you’re worried your pup might be infected, help is one vet visit away.

Protect yourself, your family and your furry friends this flu season.

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