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Dog Owners Beware: Canine Influenza ‘Spreading Fast' Across LA County

Veterinarians told the NBC4 I-Team the virus is often spread through shared water bowls or other close contact between dogs.

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At busy boarding facilities, doggy day cares, and even local parks, dogs of all ages are now contracting a loud and debilitating cough. One veterinarian told the NBC4 I-Team the cough is so bad, "it will keep everyone in the house awake at night."

That tell-tale sign is just one symptom of the H3N2 Virus, otherwise known as Canine Influenza or Dog Flu. The virus is now spreading quickly across LA County with dozens of confirmed cases and hundreds more suspected cases.

One-year-old Blue is a golden retriever who is now recovering from the virus. Blue belongs to the Lacher family of Tarzana, who believes he contracted the virus at a boarding facility while the family was on a recent vacation.

The Lachers provided the I-Team with cell phone video of Blue exhibiting a deep and disturbing cough when he first became ill. The dog appears to be choking, as if he has something lodged in his throat.

"It sounded like he was gasping for air and could hardly breathe," Brian Lacher told NBC4. "It was so scary to see him like that."

Local veterinarians tell the I-Team it is possible for the virus to spread to cats, but that is extremely rare. It does not spread to humans

"If they start to notice their dog has some sniffling or sneezing, coughing, that starts to progress over a couple of days, those might be the first signs that their dog may be dealing with dog flu," Veterinarian Julio Lopez of the Encino Veterinary Center told NBC4.

The good news is, the virus is most often treatable with medication, but in some pets, the outcome can be serious.

Lopez says there is a vaccine available to prevent your dog from becoming ill in the first place. The vaccination is given in two doses, spread over two to four weeks.

"The dog flu vaccine is a great idea for any pets that are very social," said Lopez. "So if they're going out to dog parks, they meet a lot of other dogs on walks or for those pets that go to day care or boarding facilities."

Blue is now resting at home. More than a week after starting medication, he has most of his energy back. The Lacher family now urges every dog owner to talk to their veterinarian about the Canine Influenza vaccine.

"If there's a way for this to prevent your animal from getting sick or anyone else's please, consider the vaccine," said Brian Lacher. "Do yourself a favor, and do everyone else one too."

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