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Flu Spreading Among Dogs, Humans May Be Vulnerable

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- As record cases of influenza sweep across New York and the East Coast, it's not only humans getting sick.

Man's best friend can catch the flu too.

"Some dogs get deeper respiratory infection get fever, inappetince, not eating -- and in rare cases, death," said Dr. Richazrd Goldstein, chief medical officer at the Animal Medical Center.

Canine influenza is most prevalent here during summer months, but can happen any time of year due to dog-to-dog contact. It's unlikely people need to worry, but transmission is not impossible.

"An individual person can get dog flu or bird flu, but it won't transmit person to person," said Goldstein.

Part of the increase in infections has to do with weather displacing animals up north.

"(There was) a huge influx of dogs from Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico - all those dogs adding stress to the system," said Goldstein.

Another factor showing an increase in infections has to do with better tracking thanks to Cornell University's Animal Health Diagnostic center which started tracking canine influenza in 2015.

"We were really concerned this virus was going to rapidly spread across the country and no one was going to know it's coming," said Dr. Amy Glaser, a senior research associate at Cornell.

Ohio and Kentucky are still battling a summer outbreak, with a more recent problem in the Bay Area, but the Tri-State has been stable.

"We should be really grateful," said Glaser. "This is an aggressive virus that can spread really rapidly in the canine population."

Thankfully there is a vaccine for people's pets.

"I definately recommend it strongly to any dog that's going to be in close contact with other dogs," said Goldstein.

Meanwhile a simple swab is all that's required to check a dog for the flu.

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