In the spring of 2015, nearly 1,000 dogs in the Chicago area came down with the flu. Since then, canine influenza (CIV) has spread to more than 25 states — most recently Missouri and Seattle.

If you’re a dog owner, these outbreaks may be a good reason to check with your vet to find out if you should have Fido vaccinated. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), if there are outbreaks of CIV in your area, you may want to consider flu vaccination — especially if your pooch goes to doggie day care or you spend time at a dog park. Canine flu is highly contagious and is easily spread when dogs cough, sneeze and share toys, warns the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Related: Yes, Your Dog Can Get the Flu

What is dog flu?

According to the CDC, there are two strains of canine flu virus — H3N8 and H3N2. H3N2 is the strain that’s making the rounds now.

Symptoms can vary, but most dogs who get the flu suffer from a soft, moist cough that takes between 10 and 30 days to run its course. Other symptoms include runny nose, loss of appetite, lethargy and fever.

Puppies, older dogs and dogs with other health problems are at higher risk for more serious symptoms like life-threatening pneumonia and high fevers. No cases of the H3N2 virus infecting humans have been reported.

If your dog develops a cough, call your veterinarian. Treatment for the flu depends on the dog’s symptoms. The vet may prescribe an antibiotic or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug to reduce fever and swelling, says AVMA. A pup that becomes seriously ill may need to be hospitalized.

Related: When To Take a Sick Pet to the Vet

About that vaccine

There are four vaccines for CIV. Two provide protection against H3N8 and have been available for some time. Two newer vaccines, for H3N2, were developed in November 2015, and both were licensed conditionally by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

They aren’t for every dog, though. “The canine influenza vaccine is a "lifestyle" vaccine,” according to the AVMA. “In general, the vaccine is intended for the protection of dogs at risk for exposure to the canine influenza virus, which include those that either participate in activities with many other dogs or are housed in communal facilities, particularly where the virus is prevalent. Dogs that may benefit from canine influenza vaccination include those that receive the kennel cough (Bordetella/parainfluenza) vaccine, because the risk groups are similar.”

Related: 13 Health Symptoms Dog Owners Should Never Ignore

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