PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A new strain of flu is affecting thousands of dogs all over the country. At least six in the Chicago area have died.

It’s causing many people to rethink boarding their dogs just as the summer travel season gets into full swing. So, Angie’s List is helping you know how to try to keep your pet flu-free.

Dr. Arielle Pechette hears from concerned dog owners every day. They’re looking to keep their pets away from the new strain of flu first found in Chicago that’s quickly spread to 30 states around the country.

“The best preventative is complete avoidance of other dogs because the unfortunate thing about this particular virus is it is most contagious before they actually start showing clinical signs,” says Dr. Pechette, an associate veterinarian. “So they’re most contagious that two-to-four-day window before they start coughing, before their nose starts running.”

Coughing, sneezing, fever and loss of appetite are the main symptoms of this highly-contagious virus. Puppies and dogs with compromised immune systems are most susceptible.

“While humans can’t get the dog flu, they still can be a carrier of the dog flu and pass it from dog to dog,” says Angie Hicks, of Angie’s List. “So, if you’re around multiple dogs, be sure you’re washing your hands, or even changing your clothes before interacting with each dog.”

Because infected dogs may not be showing symptoms, there’s no way to guarantee the virus won’t reach your doggie day care or favorite boarding facility.

“If you are going to be boarding your dog this summer, be sure to discuss their protocol for how they would handle if the flu did arrive at the kennel, and if they don’t have a good protocol, or they just kind of shrug it off, choose another kennel,” says Hicks.

“The good news is that most of the cases are mild,” Dr. Pechette adds. “They say that almost every dog that comes in contact with it will get infected. Of those, only 80 percent will show clinical signs. So some dogs will get it and not even cough.”

Keep a close eye out for symptoms in your dog this summer. If they appear, keep your dog away from others for at least two to three weeks until the virus has run its course.

If you’re taking a vacation and just can’t bring your dog along, Angie’s List suggests using a pet sitter as an extra precaution.

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