Dog flu outbreak: How to protect your pet

  • Pet owners are worried about a dangerous strain of dog flu spreading through western states.

    Health officials in the Seattle area say tests confirmed this week that the virus was found in dogs who stayed at a local kennel and doggie daycare facility. The kennel owner reported that 80 to 90 dogs there developed respiratory illness since December.

    The highly contagious illness, also called canine influenza, appears to have begun spreading last spring in the Chicago area and sickened more than 1,000 dogs in the Midwest. Although most dogs recover, a handful of deaths were reported. It has since spread to about 25 states.

    "It kind of stunned most of us in the veterinary community because it spread like wildfire," veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward told CBS News when the first wave of the outbreak was raging last April.

    Experts say this strain of the virus, called H3N2, was first seen in Asia but only recently appeared in the U.S., meaning dogs in this country are highly vulnerable. "None of the dogs have immunity to fight it off, so you see large numbers of dogs getting ill when the virus starts to circulate," Dr. Beth Lipton, veterinarian for Public Health Seattle and King County, told CBS News.

    Click through to learn more about the symptoms, how it spreads, and what you can do to help keep your pets healthy.