Knowing the signs of dog flu

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Dog flu is a highly contagious respiratory illness that can be passed from dog to dog and sometimes cats. The illness commonly starts with a cough and can sometimes be confused with or mistaken for the more common and well-known "kennel cough."

Symptoms can worsen and lead to fever, nasal discharge, lethargy, loss of appetite or worse, progress to pneumonia. Call your veterinarian immediately if your dog is exhibiting these behaviors, so they can advise on the best course of action.

[RELATED: Dogs can catch the flu, too]

Dog flu can last up to three weeks. Though it varies on a case-by-case basis, canine flu signs usually persist for 7-10 days and is contagious for up to three weeks before or after the dog shows signs.

If you think your dog may have been exposed, or if your dog is showing signs, they should be kept away from other pets for the full three-week period to prevent spread of the virus.

[READ MORE: How to protect your dog from canine influenza]

There's no "flu season" for dogs. Unlike human flu, canine flu doesn't have a seasonality pattern, so we're unfortunately seeing cases crop up nationwide all year long. While it's not reason to panic, it's important for pet owners to know the facts and partner with their veterinarian on the best ways to help protect their pets. Even if you haven't heard of confirmed dog flu cases in your area, it's very possible the virus could be coming to a dog park near you soon.

[RELATED: Canine influenza is in the Phoenix area]

Dog owners should consider the canine flu vaccine. If your dog has a social lifestyle with exposure to lots of other pets, whether at doggy daycare, grooming facilities, dog parks, boarding kennels or airplane travel, talk to your veterinarian about whether the canine flu vaccine (offered at most Banfield Pet Hospitals) could be the right fit for them. 

Canine flu is not contagious to humans. It's important to know that canine flu has never been transferred to humans, just as the human flu is not contagious to pets.

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Canine flu is, however, highly contagious to other dogs, so it's important to stay apprised of any cases in your area and keep your dog out of social dog settings (parks, boarding kennels, etc.) until otherwise recommended by your veterinarian.

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