GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) --- An outbreak of canine flue has reached North Carolina and lead to the deaths of two dogs, one in Morehead City and one in Raleigh, according to the state Department of Agriculture.
"There was exposure to a large number of dogs from the North Carolina area and they have brought it back to North Carolina," said Dr. Mark Hayes at the 10th Street Animal Hospital in Greenville.
He said the canine flu spread easily and manifests symptoms similar to kennel cough, making it difficult to identify.
"It's usually transmitted dog to dog, but it can also linger on clothing from animals that have been handled," said Hayes. "So the human that has handled that dog, their clothing could stay infected for 24 hours."
Hayes said vaccination is key to protecting your dog.
The shots target both the H3N2 strain and the H3N8 strain that have been infecting dogs across the country, but the vaccinations are only effective if they are followed up by a booster shot.
Hayes says timing may be a problem.
"We are in the midst of summer, so it's a little bit of a problem because if you have a vacation scheduled in the next week or two, even if we vaccinate your dog today, we can't get that booster in for three weeks," Hayes said.
Researchers analyzing the dog flu say the strains have the potential to infect other animals as well.
Hayes said if you're going on vacation take precautions now to keep your dog and other pets healthy.
"Plan ahead," said Hayes. "If you know that you're planning to board your dog in the coming months, it would be best to start now. Do the vaccine, get your booster in two to three weeks and then hopefully your dog will be protected when it goes to the kennel."
The good news is the canine flu is not fatal.
If your dog has symptoms, including a cough, lack of appetite or lethargy, visit your vet and keep the dog away from other animals.
There are more precautions you can take listed here.