Canine flu has made a comeback in Chicago, but experts at BluePearl Veterinary Partners say pet owners everywhere should pay close attention to the disease.
“Canine influenza is something all pet owners and veterinarians should be aware of, because it has been seen throughout the United States,” said Dr. Garret Pachtinger, who is board-certified in emergency and critical care. “It’s not just localized in one specific area.”
About 150 dogs have recently gotten the sickness at various shelters in the Chicago area, according to a media report.
BluePearl veterinarians say the canine flu virus is not a cause for panic – especially now that effective vaccines have been developed. But they do urge pet owners to stay informed, and they offer these guides for keeping dogs healthy:
- Be aware of the signs that your dog may have canine flu, including coughing, fever, nasal discharge, lethargy and a general lack of appetite.
- If your dog shows these signs, call your family veterinarian or local emergency room before visiting the hospital. A patient with the canine flu may be best isolated rather than risking spread to other dogs in the waiting room, because the virus is contagious.
- Don’t assume “indoor only” dogs can’t get the flu. Chances are good they still may come into contact with other dogs, whether in the hallway of an apartment building, the elevator, or even by doing their business in the same square of grass used by others.
- If an outbreak of canine flu is reported in your area, consider keeping your dogs away from dog parks, grooming salons and other places where canines might infect each other.
- Ask your family veterinarian about vaccines that are available to combat the virus.
- If coughing and other problems persist, don’t be afraid to call a specialist such as
those at BluePearl.
- If you need to board your pet, ask questions to make sure the facility has a well-developed protocol for canine flu.
- If your dog displays signs of canine flu, keep a close eye on cats in your home also. It’s rare for cats to get canine flu, but it does sometimes happen. Just remember that checking up on them can be a challenge — cats tend to hide when they’re not feeling well.
Pachtinger said one complicating factor is that signs pointing to canine flu are similar to those of other diseases, such as pneumonia, which underscores the need to talk to a veterinarian. Pachtinger holds positions with BluePearl as well as its affiliated company, Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center.
Although canine flu is highly contagious to dogs, it is rarely fatal. There is no evidence to suggest it can be transmitted to humans.
Since March 8, 2015, Illinois has led the nation with 820 positive tests for canine flu, but the disease also has been confirmed in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kentucky, New York and other states, according to data compiled by the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. For the 45-day period ending Feb. 2, there were 17 positive cases in Illinois and 14 in all other states combined, according to Cornell.