Canine flu is highly contagious and it's spreading across the nation. It's been diagnosed in more than 46 states, including Iowa. As a dog owner, it has my attention.

Symptoms can include coughing, sneezing, and a fever, leading some pet owners to believe their dog has kennel cough. According to WebMD, other symptoms include rapid or difficulty breathing, lethargy, loss of appetite, and nasal discharge that changes from clear to thick and yellowish-green.

Jodie Strait had multiple dogs inflicted with the virus and told Fox32,

Within a few days all of my dogs were fighting for their lives.

Sitting alone with a dog gasping for breath in the middle of the night was horrific and something I would not wish on anyone.  I told (the dogs) they owe me nothing. Just please, please keep breathing…Just breathe… I was one of the lucky ones – mine survived.”

I reached out to Blairs Ferry Pet Hospital in Cedar Rapids this morning to ask about this large concern. I spoke to Dr. Teresa Streeper who told me 'Yes' they've had cases of canine influenza in their office. Just as important, 'Yes' they offer the new vaccine.

Streeper tells me vaccinating at-risk dogs is a 2-part process. The vaccine is administered, then three weeks later a booster is given. Two weeks after that, the treated dog has immunity from the viruses.

Should your dog be vaccinated? If your dog spends time around other dogs, it certainly might be a good idea. Only you and your vet can answer that question, though. Casey (our dog, below) and yours are counting on us to at least consider it.

Casey photo by Julie James

[Fox 32, WebMD, and Blairs Ferry Pet Hospital]