Outbreak of virulent dog flu in up to 13 Florida canines

Seven cases are confirmed, with six suspected, according to Florida officials.

Dog flu is usually not life threatening, but it can lead to pneumonia. While the virus can spread rapidly among dogs, it cannot infect humans.

"This virus is spread by direct contact of a susceptible dog with a contagious dog, but it is also spread very effectively and efficiently with contact through contaminated clothing, contaminated hands, contaminated objects in the environment," Dr. Cynda Crawford from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine said in a news conference today.

She said that the virus can last on clothing or other objects for eight to 24 hours and that it is almost impossible to tell the difference between symptoms of mild dog flu and more common, less infectious diseases like kennel cough.

Dog flu symptoms include coughing, decreased appetite and lethargy during the first few days. Most dogs can recover at home without long term complications, but Crawford said that dogs need to be quarantined for four weeks at home to stop the virus from spreading. Owners should notify clinics if they suspect dog flu before taking in their pets, so contact with other animals can be prevented.

"The more dogs in a community that we can vaccinate to build up community immunity, the better chance we have of keeping that virus out," she said.