Canine influenza, or 'dog flu', has appeared in Montana over the past few months.

Missoula veterinarian Dr. Andy Cross said the viral infection is familiar to his profession.

"It is now new," Dr. Cross said. "It's been around for a couple of years. We just had our first case diagnosed in Helena. The take-home for us is to remember that influenza for us is a lot like kennel cough, or bordatella. It's just an upper respiratory disease and it's going to be found where dogs have a lot of contact with other dogs.That's places like boarding kennels, training facilities, and places where dogs are intermingling with other dogs."

Dr. Cross said owners who believe their dogs may be infected should call ahead before bringing their dogs into the clinic, so that special arrangements can be made to keep other dogs from being affected.

"We do that with every case of a dog that's coughing, that's just like your doctor who will ask you to keep away from other people," he said. "Because it's a virus, there aren't any drugs that will actually get rid of the virus. It's basically supportive care to get them through that."

Dr. Cross said preventive treatments are available.

"There is a vaccine for canine influenza, and again, it's been around for a number of years," he said. "As we see this disease come into this area, we're going to see this vaccine used much more often, especially with high exposure rates where dogs are intermingling with other dogs a lot."