The number of case of the Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) or “dog flu” is on the rise in the Chicago area. The vast majority of the cases to date have been within Chicago, but the number of confirmed and suspected cases in the suburbs are on the rise in the past week. We are getting an increased number of calls on what people should know and what they need to do to keep their dog safe from the dog flu.
Canine Influenza or Dog Flu
The dog flu – H3N8 – is a highly contagious but very treatable version of the dog flu. Since January, over 1,000 cases have been confirmed in Cook County alone with the numbers growing in the past week. Some people have been referring to this as Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD). That is just a broader, umbrella term that covers a lot of infections, including CIV or the dog flu.
The majority of the dogs showing flu-like symptoms in the recent outbreak have been confirmed as CIV or the canine flu. Some of the signs to look for in your dog are a cough or honking cough, nasal discharge, fever, lethargy or decreased appetite. If your dog has experienced these symptoms, you should take him or her to your primary veterinarian to be treated.
“The good news about this type of dog flu is that although it’s very contagious, it does respond well to supportive treatment,” according to Dr. Matt Schnabl at VSC at Illinois who has been treating cases in Chicago since the outbreak started. “The mortality rate is very low when treated.”
There are two forms, with mild/moderate signs that can be treated with medication at home, and a smaller percentage of more severe cases that require hospitalization (high fever, no appetite, nasal discharge). CIV is infectious between dogs, but cannot be spread to people. It is also generally very treatable, but medical therapy is necessary. Because it is contagious, isolation wards at many clinics have been full while dogs recover.
City outbreak versus suburban outbreak
While some suburbs are seeing a lot of cases, most of the cases to date have been within Chicago. The big difference in the city is that many dogs don’t have their own yards and may be spending time at doggy day care, in kennels or at dog parks. They also are going for walks in areas that are more heavily traveled by more dogs.
Many more suburban dogs have their own yards and haven’t been out and exposed to more dogs. However, with nice spring days on the horizon and some dogs spending time in kennels during spring break this past week that number could spike in the coming week. Some cases can take up to 10 days to show symptoms.
How to protect your dog
There are steps you can take to prevent exposure or protect your dog from the dog flu:
- Get your dog vaccinated – There is a vaccine available so it would be helpful to talk to your family veterinarian about its possible use. This has not been needed, or frequently recommended, in the Chicago area in the past, and was mostly seen along the east coast. Like the human flu shot, it doesn’t cover all strains. Dogs also need two shots, three weeks apart to develop immunity, and it may take up to four weeks to develop full immunity.
- Keep your dog away from high-risk areas – Some of the areas frequented by dogs that should be considered include, dog parks, kennels, doggy day care, grooming and training facilities and pet stores.
- Avoid popular walking or exercise areas for dogs – If you don’t have a yard or area for your dog, try to walk him or her in areas that are less popular for other dogs until the outbreak subsides.
Because treatment is the key, it’s important to be watchful for signs of coughing or decreased appetite, especially if your dog is playing with lots of other pets. More information is available here. If you suspect your dog may have the canine flu, please call your primary vet or call us at 847.459.7535 (Buffalo Grove) or 312.226.3641 (Chicago).