Vigilant pet owners work to keep dog flu at bay

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SHERMAN, Tex. (KXII) — Nancy Ridgeway has a 4-month-old Great Dane named George.

She said especially because he's still so young, the dog flu concerns her that much more.

"You do not want them sick, because they can't tell you what's the matter," Ridgeway said.

Veterinarians said symptoms of the dog flu can resemble those of the human flu.

"Sneezing, coughing, fever; sometimes in more severe cases, they're going to get lethargic and even have trouble breathing," said Dr. David Tidwell, a veterinarian in Grayson County, Texas.

No need to fret though — the respiration virus dogs carry is different. Their flu cannot be passed from people to dogs, and vice versa. The canine flu is spread from dog-to-dog through the air from coughing, sneezing and barking or through shared food bowls.

While a handful of dog flu cases have been reported this flu season in highly populated areas like Dallas, it has not been confirmed in the Shenandoah Valley.

Two strains of the dog flu have shown up in West Virginia and one so far in Virginia.

There are multiple strains of the potentially deadly flu making the rounds nationwide, according to research from the website www.dogflu.com, run by Merck.

"Right now, the incidents are still low, but we're monitoring the situation," Tidwell said.

Tidwell advises pet owners who travel with their dogs to get their dogs a canine flu vaccination.

"The most at risk dogs are the ones that are going to go to dog shows, to training events, areas where dogs congregate from different areas," he said.

The shot covers the two main strains of the virus, and that is something Ridgeway said she will consider for her pet.

"We will see Dr. Tidwell and find out," she said.

Like humans, age can impact how a dog responds to the flu. Younger and older dogs are more at risk for developing pneumonia and a bad cough which could be life threatening.