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Canine Influenza in North Carolina, dog owners concerned (Photo: Kirsten Gutierrez/WWAY)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Although flu season has passed for people, it is just now gearing up for man’s best friend.  There is a new deadly strain of dog flu that is making the virus much more contagious.

Canine Influenza is hitting the Southeast part of our country, including North Carolina.

“More recently what we’re seeing is a new strain that is far more contagious than some of the older strains we had been seeing,” Veterinarian, Kara Duffy said.

According to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, the recent outbreak of dog flu started at dog shows in Georgia and Florida.

“It’s spreading so rapidly because it’s so easily contagious. So any kind of friendly contact between dogs, even a friendly sniff walking past or dogs that are sharing bowls, sharing leashes,” Duffy said.

The virus has killed several dogs including two in North Carolina, one in Raleigh and one in Morehead city. The recent deaths are making dog owners like Megan McGrew and Lauren Talton concerned it might make its way to the Cape Fear.

“Hearing about the deaths is certainly alarming,” McGrew said. “Especially as a new dog owner. I’ve owned dogs all my life, and knowing that this is out there is definitely kind of scary.”

“I mean it’s scary. I mean you don’t know, you don’t know if anybody has vaccinated their dogs at all or ever. Or if they are carrying it their owner might not know. And you just have to be on guard. And once you see the symptoms, take them to the vet,” Talton said.

When it comes to what to look out for, Doctor Duffy says there are a several symptoms.

“Coughing, sneezing, congestion. There can also be sort of vaguer symptoms like just loss of appetite, being lethargic not quite as active,” Duffy said.

The dog flu is treatable, but experts warn it can be deadly without the proper care.

“We encourage people to get their dogs vaccinated. Especially if their dogs are social, going to parks or even seeing a lot of dogs in the neighborhood on walks, because this is such a contagious strain,” Duffy said.

Right now, New Hanover County Animal Services says there have been no cases reported in our area.

However, Doctor Duffy stresses to keep an eye on your dog’s behavior and if you see something strange to see a veterinarian as soon as possible.

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