By ALEXANDRA DUBIN/Montana State News

One case of a new and potentially fatal disease in dogs has been diagnosed in Montana.

A case of canine influenza, H3N2, has been confirmed in Helena as of January 2016. According to Beth Harper, the animal care manager at the Heart of the Valley animal shelter in Bozeman, there have been no cases of H3N2 at the shelter. Symptoms characteristic of the illness include lethargy, runny nose, loss of appetite, and high fever according to a CBS report. In rare cases, the flu can be fatal.

Dogs contract the flu if exposed to an infected dog’s cough or sneeze according to WebMD. Prevention is the best way to keep dogs away from the vet. Harper suggests remaining up to date on vaccinations and avoiding boarding dogs or taking dogs to dog parks to prevent contraction of the flu. If a dog begins to show signs of the flu, call a vet immediately.

Canine flu began in March 2015 in Chicago and has since spread to Western states. Meghan Murphy, a Bozeman dog owner, says she wants to be as cost effective as possible with her dog and that’s why she chose to vaccinate. Murphy says that prevention is cheaper than an unexpected visit to the vet. Vaccination can be a choice but is required when sending dogs to doggie daycare or boarding them according to Murphy.

Dog owners urged dog owners to contact a vet immediately of their dog begins to show signs. It’s safe to continue a normal routine with added caution, according to experts.

-Edited by Megan Ahern

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