Veterinarians in Dallas and Fort Worth are warning pet owners about Canine Influenza or the "dog flu" spreading across North Texas.
"The dog flu is actually a very infectious virus...so it's become sort of an epidemic in the veterinary field," said Dr. Karen Spikes, the owner of A-Animal Clinic in Fort Worth.
Dr. Spikes said in the past few years the virus has spread across the country. She said it's been confirmed in 38 states, including Texas. The first cases popped up in San Antonio, but Dr. Spikes said there have been confirmed cases, recently, in both Dallas and Tarrant Counties.
"Sometimes an owner might report decreased activity, a lack of appetite, maybe a mild fever and definitely some sneezing and coughing. If it goes untreated it can turn into pneumonia which can be life threatening, just like in a person," Spikes said.
Many pet owners, like Elizabeth Horne, had no idea the dog flu even existed.
"I thought they were kidding! How can my dog get the flu?" Horne said.
But Horne said her vet advised her to go ahead and get the vaccine.
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Spikes said the risk is so high this holiday season, she's requiring all dogs who come to her clinic to get the vaccine, which most of the time costs around $25.
"The vaccine is very effective... it decrease the length and the severity of the disease," she said.
Spikes said the highest risk dogs are ones who are around other dogs often, especially those who stay at boarding kennels.
Her best advice, get the vaccine and soon. It could be the best present you give your dog this holiday season.
Unlike other influenza strains related to animals -- swine flu or avian flu, for example -- the "dog flu" does not spread to humans.