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You know the feeling -- runny nose, not very hungry, a cough and you are tired. You just feel worn-out all over. Odds are you have the flu. Your dog can get the flu just like you, although they can't catch it from you nor can you catch it from them. They are different strains.

So the question is -- should you get your dog a flu shot? Dr. Kimberly May at the American Veterinary Medical Association, or AVMA, says it really depends how much your dog is exposed to strange dogs.

Canine influenza vaccine is classified as a lifestyle vaccine, as opposed to a core vaccine, like rabies, parvo and distemper. If you are boarding your dog, most places will not take your dog unless it has had a Bordetella vaccine and the canine infulenza vaccine falls into the same category.

When your dog is at the dog park or anywhere else in public, it can be exposed to many different things. Other dogs may be in close proximity and, well, we just don't know where some dogs have been so you might want to play it safe and inoculate.

Like kennel cough

When the flu first hits it can be confused with kennel cough.The symptoms are similar but it lasts much longer. The flu itself isn't life-threatening and requires simply supportive care to help a dog recover as quickly as possible and to feel comfortable while the symptoms still appear. Much like humans, it's rest and relaxation with fluids.

Cynda Crawford, an assistant professor of shelter medicine at the University of Florida, said a test is needed to confirm the diagnosis. The big concern with dog flu is that it could go into pneumonia -- it's the secondary infections that are of concern. Experts estimate the fatality rate at 1% to 5%.

Crawford said the real problem is that dogs haven't been previously exposed to the virus, they have no immunity. So nearly 100% of dogs exposed to dog flu catch it, and 80% will show symptoms within four days, she said.

A dog flu vaccine was approved in the spring of 2009 and is now available at veterinary offices. Edward Dubovi, PhD, director of the virology laboratory at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine is the one who first isolated the canine influenza virus. He said the vaccine won't prevent a dog from getting the virus, but it will lessen the severity and the duration of the disease.

According to the ASPCA any dog infected with the flu should be kept isolated from other dogs for 10-14 days from the onset of symptoms. Dogs are most infectious before symptoms are apparent, and can continue shedding the virus for around 10 days. This means that by the time symptoms are seen, other dogs may have already been exposed.


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