Newswise — The new strain of flu that affected more than 1,000 dogs in Chicago has not yet spread to South Dakota, but South Dakota State University veterinarians advise owners to be vigilant.

Dogs experience the same influenza symptoms as humans—fever, runny nose and cough that then leads to lethargy and lack of appetite. Owners should take dogs exhibiting these symptoms to their veterinarians, according to State public health and SDSU Extension veterinarian Russ Daly. “There are a lot of things that can cause respiratory problems in dogs—not all are influenza-related,” he said, including the more common kennel cough.

To test for influenza, a veterinarian will swab the animal’s nose and throat and send the samples to the Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory at SDSU.

ADRDL director Jane Christopher-Hennings, who is also a veterinarian, said that samples should be taken within two to four days after clinical symptoms develop. “Otherwise we may not be able to detect it, since the virus is only shed for that short period of time after clinical symptoms begin” she added. Typically samples are processed the same day they are received.

The veterinarian will develop a care plan for those dogs that test positive, Hennings explained. They should be isolated from other dogs. “If your dog has symptoms, don’t take it to a daycare or kennel.”

The virus is spread through nose-to-nose contact, according to Daly. “They pretty much have to breathe the same air.”

“It’s a pretty flimsy virus once it leaves the animal’s body,” Daly noted. Even if an infected animal sneezes on a ramp at a dog park, for instance, another dog would have to lick the ramp within three to four minutes to contract the virus. However, he pointed out that the new H3N2 strain seems more virulent than the H3N8 strain that affected dogs in 2004 and 2005. Though a vaccine was developed in 2009 for the older strain, experts are uncertain whether it will offer any protection. “These vaccines tend to be pretty strain specific,” Daly added.

About Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic LaboratorySince 1887, the South Dakota State University Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory has served the public by providing high quality veterinary diagnostic services as a means to promptly and accurately establish causes of animal health problems. Such diagnoses aid attending veterinarians and health officials in the treatment, control, prevention and surveillance of animal diseases, benefitting South Dakota and national livestock industries, other animal owners and public health. Research work involves basic and applied investigations that enhance the understanding of the induction of diseases in animals, the development of diagnostic methods for the detection of diseased animals, products for treatment or prevention of disease and management protocols for the control of disease.

About South Dakota State UniversityFounded in 1881, South Dakota State University is the state’s Morrill Act land-grant institution as well as its largest, most comprehensive school of higher education. SDSU confers degrees from eight different colleges representing more than 175 majors, minors and specializations. The institution also offers 32 master’s degree programs, 15 Ph.D. and two professional programs. The work of the university is carried out on a residential campus in Brookings, at sites in Sioux Falls, Pierre and Rapid City, and through Cooperative Extension offices and Agricultural Experiment Station research sites across the state.