Dog flu: Multiple dogs infected with potentially deadly virus

(FOX NEWS) - Seven canines in Florida have been diagnosed with potentially deadly dog flu, a highly contagious virus that popped up in 10 states and infected nearly 1,000 dogs in Chicago in 2015.

In a news release Tuesday the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services confirmed the animals had the H3N2 canine influenza virus, which cannot infect humans. The canines are being treated at the University of Florida (UF) College of Veterinary Medicine, and health officials suspect six additional cases.

Dr. Michael Short, the state's chief vet, told the Miami Herald that all of the dogs are in stable condition but several had to be hospitalized.

Despite not being spreadable to humans, the dog flu can infect cats, the Herald reported. Most cases are not fatal, but, if left untreated, the virus can progress to pneumonia.

According to the Department of Agriculture, symptoms include loss of appetite, fever and lethargy. Most dogs, however, recover within a few days without complications.

To help protect their pets against illness, dog owners in Florida and elsewhere may choose to vaccinate. Vaccinations are not required by all veterinarians.

According to The Herald, vets recommend infected dogs be quarantined for a minimum of four weeks, noting the live virus can live for 24 hours. When sick dogs cough or sneeze, germs may spread up to 20 feet. The newspaper also noted common areas of transmission: grooming parlors and dog parks.

Vets also advise pet owners who suspect their dog may be infected to seek a separate entrance to the vet, since the virus is so contagious. This way, pet owners can avoid infecting other animals.

"It's very contagious, so you have to be careful," Dr. Marta Lista of Trail Animal Hospital in Miami, told The Herald. "Most dogs don't have immunity and they don't have vaccines."

In an interview with The Herald, UF officials declined to disclose where the Florida cases occurred.