Canine influenza, or dog flu, is nearing epidemic levels in Chicago. At least 1,000 cases have been identified, and five dogs have already died, prompting a growing concern among owners.
To mitigate the spread of the flu, the Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control issued a public warning on Friday to keep pet dogs at home. Like human influenza, dog flu is highly contagious.
According to the Chicago Tribune, officials are discouraging owners from taking their dogs to dog parks, pet kennels, dog training facilities, and anywhere else dogs congregate. Even canines who show no symptoms could be harboring the disease.
PetSmart took the initiative and already closed down three boarding facilities after several dogs became infected. Other businesses, like groomers, are also limiting their operations until the outbreak subsides.
Cook County animal control administrator Dr. Donna Alexander explained that there is a vaccine available, but it’s not effective immediately, so owners still need to keep up precautions.
“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. Even dog-friendly areas: You enter at your own risk (because) there is a lot of nose-to-nose contact going on there.”
The vaccine costs about $100. Although that might seem like a lot of money, a dog with severe flu can cost thousands to treat at the veterinarian.
As the dog flu rages on, some veterinarians are starting to become overwhelmed. One supervising vet, Dr. Jerry Klein, told CBS News that he’s seeing 15 cases of canine influenza a day at the Chicago Veterinary Emergency Center.
“It’s almost an epidemic. I’ve been here for 35 years, it’s probably the worst type of outbreak I’ve ever experienced.”
The Chicago Sun detailed the story about one of the dog flu’s victims, an eight-year-old miniature pinscher named Penny.
The owner, Arriola, explained that she took Penny to the vet and received antibiotics, but the little canine continued to get worse.
She eventually succumbed to a heart attack, leaving the owner traumatized.
“It’s just tragic. I have no words to describe it. I’m still in shock. I know that I will never love anything or anyone as much as I love Penny.”
Eventually the dog flu will subside on its own, but in the meantime owners should be wary, the flu can be deadly for a small percentage of dogs.
[Image Credit: Getty Images]