WACO, Texas (FOX 44) – At least three coughing dogs in the Waco community have tested positive for the canine flu.

A local clinic said Monday afternoon that there is a decent-sized outbreak of upper respiratory disease working its way through Waco and surrounding communities. Other veterinarians in the area have also seen a dramatic increase in dogs experiencing upper respiratory symptoms – such as coughing, sneezing, lethargy, poor appetite and increased respiratory rate – over the last two weeks.

Reports say all of these dogs have recently been in highly social environments – like doggy daycare, boarding, grooming places – three to five days before these symptoms have started. These were assumed to be cases of kennel cough, since canine influenza has never been detected in the Waco area.

Clinics have received confirmation that at least three coughing dogs in the community have tested positive for the H3N2 strain of Canine Influenza. Due to the cost of testing for canine influenza, the majority of owners which have presented with symptomatic dogs have decided not to send off testing – and have requested for clinics to proceed with treatment, assuming their dog has kennel cough.

Although all of the examined dogs do not have confirmed canine influenza test results, clinics believe there is an extremely high likelihood that all of these dogs are infected with canine influenza. Canine influenza, or dog flu, is caused by an influenza A virus.

Two strains have been identified in dog flu cases in the United States – H3N8 was first found in the U.S. dog population in 2004, and a “newer” H3N2 was identified more recently in 2015. Although clinics say it does not infect people, canine influenza is highly contagious to other dogs – and can happen year-round.

Most dogs have mild symptoms and recover within one to three weeks. However, just like in people, some cases can advance into worsening symptoms – and even result in life-threatening pneumonia. Exposure to the virus comes from other dogs in situations such as doggy daycare, boarding, grooming or other social activities where contact with respiratory secretions could happen.

For prevention, clinis recommend to temporarily limit activities which expose dogs to others. If your dog has been treated for a cough recently or has had confirmed canine influenza, it is recommended that they not engage or socialize with any other dogs for at least one month after showing symptoms.

The H3N2 strain detected in the Waco community can be transmissible up to 28 days after infection. If your dog has experienced these symptoms and is scheduled to board with any clinics or any dog boarding facilities for the coming holidays – you are urged to call and cancel your planned boarding reservation. If your dog has these symptoms and you do not cancel your reservation, you are putting other people’s four-legged family members at risk.

A severe outbreak could also force them and other facilities to close, and could affect the livelihood of its employees and the availability of holiday boarding for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

There is an available vaccine that covers both the H3N8 and the H3N2 influenza strains. Some clinics are not currently requiring this vaccine, but do feel that dog owners should strongly consider getting their dog vaccinated if they plan to have their dog in any of the high social situations listed above.

The vaccine consists of an initial vaccination, followed by a booster three weeks later. Please be aware that full protective immunity from the vaccine does not occur until seven to ten days after your dog has received the three-week booster. Infection can also still occur after vaccination, but symptoms in vaccinated dogs tend to be significantly milder.

Clinics say this is a fluid situation, and it is possible recommendations could change in the days and weeks to come.