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Published: Nov 30, 2011

As the cold weather sets in, many people are heading to the doctor to get their annual flu shots. According to dogs can also be susceptible to the flu. While distinctly different than the human flu virus, there is also a vaccine available specially designed to help protect dogs.

According to the U.S. Center For Disease Control and Prevention, canine influenza was first identified in 2004, after numerous cases of an unknown respiratory illness in dogs had been reported. Since then, nearly 40 states have documented cases, including Colorado, Florida and Washington, D.C.

Clinical signs that a dog may have the flu include lethargy, fever, runny nose, aches and pains and a lack of appetite. If an owner notes any of these signs they should schedule an examination at their veterinarian health clinic. While the flu usually runs its course within 2 to 3 weeks, more serious complications—such as pneumonia and even death—are possible and all affected dogs should be examined by a health professional. Often a dog suffering from the flu will require extensive medical therapy and supportive nursing care to fully recover.

The site reports that although the flu shot is available for dogs, it is a "lifestyle" vaccine and should be considered for dogs with a higher risk of being exposed to the flu. VCA Animal Hospitals reports that dogs who are boarded or kenneled frequently, go to the groomer routinely, are housed with other dogs or have frequent dog contact—such as at dog shows, doggie daycare or dog parks—are more “high risk” and the vaccine should be considered. While the vaccine may not completely prevent infection with the flu, vaccinated dogs will usually develop less severe illness and are less likely to spread the virus to other dogs. VCA reports that your veterinarian can help you determine if your dog is a candidate for the flu vaccine.