Increased cases of canine influenza, also known as “dog flu” have been reported in Chicago, IL in the past few weeks. Dog flu has cropped up in other states since it was identified in racing Greyhounds in Florida in 2004. Illinois is now the 27th state to report outbreaks of the virus.
The virus is airborne and highly contagious. Symptoms, which can easily be mistaken for kennel cough, include: a hacking cough, runny eyes and nose, lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, vomiting phlegm, and possibly pneumonia. A canine that shows these signs should be taken to the veterinarian, who will need to perform a blood test to confirm the diagnosis of dog flu. If infected, the dog is treated with antibiotics that are used to prevent any secondary infections such as bacterial pneumonia; the dog is contagious for about 7 to 10 days, in which time it should be kept away from other dogs. It takes about 10 to 30 days for a dog to make a full recovery from the flu.
The urban environment of Chicago is a perfect breeding ground for the virus because of high dog densities especially in settings such as shelters, day-care centers, kennels, and groomers. Guardians should be cautious of dogs with a cough and can do a few simple things such as disinfecting a dog’s bedding, washing their hands and the dogs paws, keeping floor and home surfaces clean, as well as frequenting appointment-only groomers, and making sure any day-care/kennel facilities used take similar precautions to prevent the spread of the flu.