Local Vet Cautions Pet Owners Of Rapidly-Spreading Dog Flu

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FORT SMITH (KFSM)-- A highly contagious dog flu is spreading across the U.S, but it hasn’t reached Arkansas yet.

Canine influenza isn`t new, but it`s spreading quickly. More than 2,000 dogs across 24 states have been infected.

“The virus can live a couple of days without any problem whatsoever on a hard surface,” veterinarian John Remer said. “It can live on your hands for about 12 hours.”

Dr. Remer said while humans can`t get the virus, they can pass it on if they are around an infected dog; dogs can be infected simply by just being around an infected dog or sharing a toy.

“Every dog that coughs doesn`t have canine influenza, but dogs with canine influenza cough,” Remer said. “They will have a respiratory, a bronchitis, they`ll have nasal discharge, they`ll have ocular discharge.”

Remer said that some dogs don’t show any symptoms at all, but they can still be infected.

He said because the virus hasn’t reached Arkansas yet, dog parks in the state are still safe. Remer added, “high risk” dogs are ones that leave the house frequently to be groomed or boarded because they're more likely to be exposed to a human or dog carrying the virus.

There is a vaccine, which Remer compares to a human flu shot, but it doesn’t prevent a dog from getting the virus; it just makes it less harmful.

Remer said best way to keep a dog safe now is to keep them away from dogs that may have recently been in other states, and if the virus does spread to Arkansas, he said dogs should get the vaccination.

“We will alert people that it is now not an option but a recommendation,” Remer said.

He said the mortality rate is low, but dogs can die if they go untreated.

Dogs have tested positive for the virus in Montana, Idaho, California, South Dakota, Colorado, Texas, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Florida.