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SOLON, OH – There is a new health alert for Northeast Ohio pet owners.

Several dogs have had to be hospitalized after contracting a very highly contagious strain of canine influenza.

One of Bobbie Frankel’s favorite pastimes is taking long walks on a beautiful summer day with her 12-year-old Australian cattle dog, Raymond.

Frankel says, “He’s not always sociable with other dogs. So, I don’t take him to a doggie park and I don’t have him socialize with other dogs when I take him for a walk.”

That may be a good thing.

Currently, all dogs are protected against the H3N8 strain that was first identified in 2003.

But now, there’s a new strain emerging called the H3N2, potentially more contagious and more deadly.

Doctor Samantha Huston at Solon Animal Hospital says, “I think that it is alarming. We’ve known about the outbreak since 2015 in Chicago, but slowly by slowly it’s been spreading elsewhere. So it was only just a matter of time before it would come into Northeast Ohio.”

Huston adds all dogs experience different severity levels of the flu, depending on size, age and health history.

Your dog could be at risk of spreading the virus for us to 24 days after being infected.

Symptoms include coughing, sneezing, lack of appetite and vomiting.

Veterinary technician Laura Neff’s 4-year-old mix Harley just received his flu shot vaccine, and they are encouraging all clients to do the same.

Neff says, “Even though you don’t come out of the house very often, if you do have people that come over, and bring their dogs over, you don’t know if they’re vaccinated or not. It’s definitely the safest.”

Doctors say the new strain will need a follow-up booster two to four weeks after the initial vaccine, and it should be administered in addition to the original flu vaccine.