By now, I’m sure you’re overloaded with warnings about Swine Flu, but here’s a warning you may not have heard before: Beware of Canine Flu! According to USA Today, outbreaks of the Canine Influenza Virus – or CIV – have already been documented in at least 30 states this year. While it can’t be transferred to humans, CIV is extremely contagious among dogs. In fact, experts say that virtually all dogs exposed to CIV will become infected. Common symptoms include conditions you’d expect with human flu – like coughing, fever, and some nasal fluid discharge. Those symptoms will generally clear up within a few weeks. However, secondary complications from CIV have been known to cause pneumonia in dogs, and even death!

That’s why the American Veterinary Medical Association is recommending all dog owners bring their dog to get a CIV vaccine this fall. That’s especially true if you plan to board your dog in a kennel. In fact, some kennels have already announced they won’t even accept a reservation for your dog, until you can show proof that they’ve been vaccinated. Why? Infectious diseases are more likely to spread when you put a large group of people – or in this case, dogs – together in one area. Kennel owners don’t want to deal with lots of customers complaining about sick dogs after the holidays.

Canine flu isn’t new. It was first documented at a dog track in Florida, back in 2004. Since then, CIV outbreaks have exploded, and veterinarians say it’s because most dogs have never experienced this virus before, so their immune system will be unprepared for it. Of course, the CIV vaccine isn’t free. It requires two shots, costing about $20 each. Experts say that’s a small price to pay when you consider the expense and possible heartbreak you’ll face if you DON’T get your dog vaccinated.