By Dr. Deanna Lites

DETROIT (WWJ) – Veterinarians are warning pet owners about an outbreak of canine influenza.

More than 1,000 dogs have come down with dog flu in the Chicago area, reports WWJ’s Dr. Deanna Lites — and it’s extremely contagious.

While there’s no noted outbreak in Michigan at this time, veterinarian Thomas Mullaney, from Michigan State University, advises metro Detroiters planning a trip to Chicago to be cautious.

“Do common sense things like check to see if the place you are going has dogs, and are those dogs healthy,”Mullaney said. “While in Chicago, I would limit access of my dog to public parks where lots of dogs are walked, and I would certainly limit access to doggie day care center and kennels.”

Mullaney said outbreaks of dog flu began about 10 years ago in Florida and along the east coast, most of those appearing to be associated with horse racetracks.

“It was often greyhounds that were affected,” he said. “And, so, the initial transfer of influenza to dogs appeared to have occurred from horses.”

Since that time, Mullaney, several outbreaks have occurred throughout the U.S.

What should pet owners look out for?

Mullaney said lack of appetite is a common symptom.

Also: “Owners that have a dog that begins to show cough — either a dry cough or a moist cough — with a slight fever and lethargy, I would recommend that they immediately see their veterinarians for further evaluation,” Mullaney said.

When infected with a severe form of the virus, Mullaney said, canine influenza can be fatal.

A flu vaccine is available; but not all dogs need it, so ask your vet. Mullaney said it’s often recommended that people who travel with their dogs get those pets vaccinated.

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