Canine influenza, or dog flu, is quickly reaching panic levels among dog owners and veterinarians in the Chicago area. The onset of flu among dogs is reaching near “epidemic” stages, and while officials assure the canine flu cannot be passed from dog to person, it is extremely contagious between dogs.
Writes CBS News on April 5: “More than 1,000 cases of canine infectious respiratory disease have been reported in recent weeks, with at least five dogs dying from the infection. On Friday, the Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control urged pet owners in the area to avoid dog parks, group dog training activities, animal boarding houses and travel.”
Dr. Jerry Klein, the supervising veterinarian at the Chicago Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center, said, “It’s almost an epidemic. I’ve been here for 35 years, it’s probably the worst type of outbreak I’ve ever experienced.”
Klein said the flu has claimed the lives of a few dogs already. “We have had a few fatalities, so that’s why it’s exceedingly serious,” Klein said. “It causes pneumonia, in some cases, and some of these dogs have to be on oxygen and on ventilation.”
According to the CDC, the virus that is circulating is influenza strain A-H3N8. Signs of your pet having the flu include cough, runny nose and fever, but severe cases can cause pneumonia, as confirmed by Dr. Klein.
Explaining how the virus is spread between dogs, the CDC writes: “Canine influenza virus can be spread to other dogs by direct contact with aerosolized respiratory secretions from infected dogs, by uninfected dogs coming into contact with contaminated objects, and by moving contaminated objects or materials between infected and uninfected dogs.”
Knowing that, the recommendation made is to isolate pets from one another. “Clothing, equipment, surfaces, and hands should be cleaned and disinfected after exposure to dogs showing signs of respiratory disease,” the site says.
Approved dog flu vaccinations are accessible; check with your veterinarian on their availability.
Speaking of the vaccine, Cook County animal control administrator Dr. Donna Alexander said pet owners need to bear in mind that it takes time to work.
“We are encouraging people to go see their veterinarian to see if they should start the canine influenza vaccine. It’s not effective immediately, so owners must try to keep dogs away from doggy social functions,” Alexander said. “Even dog-friendly areas. You enter at your own risk (because) there is a lot of nose-to-nose contact going on there.”
The Chicago Tribune recommends dog owners keep their dogs away from dog parks, kennels, dog training sites and other places where dogs congregate until the flu subsides.