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U.S. Pet Owners Concerned Over Dog Flu Outbreak

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As a dog flu outbreak in the Midwest grows to at least a thousand cases, so does the concern by dog owners.

Here in South Florida, we haven't had a documented case of dog influenza since 2009.

South Florida vet Dr. Cabeza from the Doral Centre Animal Hospital said we should not be concerned over the cases unless you are traveling with your pet to the affected areas.

"We are recommending that any dogs that are travelling to dog shows, that are travelling in and out of those areas that are affected, receive the influenza vaccine," said Cabeza.

More than a thousand cases of H3N2 have been reported in Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana.

For those who aren't,  she does not recommend at this point, vaccinating local dogs for the canine influenza because in fact the influenza they are seeing in Chicago right now is the H3N2, and our vaccine vaccinates for the H3N8.

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As for those in the thick of it, a cough, fever and sluggishness are the first symptoms of a dangerous strain of dog flu.

In parts of the Midwest, it has many pet owners taking precautions.

"We try not to interact with people as we are walking or animals we don't know," said pet owner Angelina Lynch.

The new flu strain is usually found in Asia and has never been seen in the U.S.

It is highly contagious and can even be passed on to cats. In the hard-hit Chicago area, the staff at an animal hospital suited up in protective gear during examinations.

Dr. Natalie Marks is co-owner of the Blum Animal Hospital on the city's north side.

"Our dog population here is what we call naïve. They've never seen anything like this before, so their immune system isn't primed and ready to fight it," said Marks.

Dogs that get the flu are isolated, some are treated with antibiotics, but at least six have died.

While there's no specific vaccine for this strain, some vets think the regular seasonal flu vaccine can help protect against it.

They're also urging pet owners to avoid dog parks and other places dogs congregate until the outbreak dies down.

The flu strain isn't a threat to humans, but if your hands or clothes come in contact with a sick dog you can transmit it to other dogs.

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