According to the Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control, there have been more than 1,000 cases of canine flu thus far.
“We are seeing anywhere from between 10-15 flu cases per day,” said Dr. Jerry Klein, supervising veterinarian of the Emergency Department at the Chicago Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center.
According to Dr. Klein, the flu is species specific and primarily affects the respiratory tract although there may also be some vomiting.
“The common signs are a hacking cough,” he said. “Many dogs don’t show symptoms further than that. Unfortunately, what we are seeing right now is some dogs worsen to significant fevers and development of pneumonia.”
Yellow and green nasal and ocular discharge is also a symptom.
“The big thing is that they are quiet, they don’t want to eat and they can’t stay hydrated,” said Dr. Klein. “Sometimes fevers go as high as 104-106 degrees with a normal temperature to dogs being 101 or 102.”
The canine influenza is highly contagious. Dr. Klein offers advice to dog owners in Chicago who might be panicked.
“The first thing you should do if you have a healthy dog is to observe it and prevent it from being exposed to a dog that may be sick,” he said.
He advises dog owners to cancel grooming appointments and refraining from going to daycare and boarding facilities if possible. He also advises preventing the use of communal dog bowls and dog toys.
Humans can also spread the virus.
“For example, if I touch a dog and it licks my hand or my shoes, the virus can stay on surfaces like that for over 24-48 hours,” said Dr. Klein. “You can bleach or disinfect and decontaminate with a solution of 30 parts water to one part bleach and letting it dry will usually kill the virus.”
While the virus is in Chicago, people do travel to surrounding cities.
“It will be interesting to see what happens over the next 10 days,” said Dr. Klein. “If there are any outbreaks of this disease in surrounding areas.”
In 2008, there was a similar influenza outbreak with pneumonia.
“It wasn’t in the numbers we are seeing now,” said Dr. Klein. In his 35 years of experience, this is the biggest outbreak he has ever seen.
According to Dr. Klein, the best treatment for the flu outbreak is prevention.
“I think people should be made aware and try to prevent their dog from getting sick without panicking,” he said. “People have to live their lives but in a different matter for the next couple of weeks just to see where this is going.”
If a dog is exhibiting the above symptoms, contact a veterinarian.
“If your dog is eating and happy, don’t rush him into the clinic,” said Dr. Klein. “Talk to your veterinarian about possible prevention.”
For more information about canine influenza, please visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.