The cold and flu season is just about upon us and that means many people will be getting their annual flu shot. However, don't forget about one very important member of the family, your dog will need one too. In 2004 researchers identified a new virus, the H3N8 virus which was more commonly called "dog flu," which sickened thousands of dogs in 38 states. There are several current outbreaks of dog flu in New York, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Texas.

Dr. Cynda Crawford, clinical assistant professor in shelter medicine at the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine says the dog flu is easily spread and highly contagious. "This is a very mobile virus, and we live in a highly mobile society that contributes to the spread of influenza, which means it can go from one community to another simply by travel of infected dogs that are still contagious," said Crawford.

The symptoms are very similar to human flu ---- coughing, nasal discharge, a low-grade temp and sneezing and secondary bacterial pneumonia is a concern. Dogs most at risk are dogs who are boarded or go to doggie day care.

Crawford also says that even though dog to dog infection is most common, "people are one of the biggest transmitters of canine influenza. They may handle an infected dog and the virus is shed and it gets all over their hands and their clothing." Crawford adds the best way to protect your dog is through vaccination.

[abcnews]