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Ask the Pet Expert | Dog flu is going around

I'm hearing that a dog flu is going around. What symptoms should I look for, and when should I take my pet to the vet if he's sick?

There was an increase in the number of cases of dog flu, or canine influenza, in Montgomery County in August. This is a contagious respiratory virus seen in dogs. Symptoms included coughing, runny nose and a fever, which can progress to more severe illness such as pneumonia. While most dogs have a mild form of the disease, the development of pneumonia can be life-threatening.

Because of the possible development of this more serious infection, I would recommend that any dog that is coughing or has a runny nose or fever see a veterinarian for a complete physical exam. This may help determine if further testing is necessary (such as a white blood cell count or chest X-rays) that may alter the recommended treatment for your pet. Treatment is generally supportive, such as rest and fluid therapy, but may include antibiotics if a secondary infection is suspected.

The virus is spread by direct contact with infected dogs or contact with objects or people that have been exposed to infected dogs. If your dog shows the clinical signs described above, you should avoid bringing your pet to dog parks, day care, or other activities with dogs and owners. There is an approved vaccine available that you can discuss with your primary-care veterinarian. This may help limit the severity of the disease if you pet is exposed in the future.

This week's expert is Dr. Tanya Tag, chief of staff at the PET+ER and Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care. Send your questions to

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