Dog Flu Epidemic in Chicago

Many living near the Chicago area are thinking twice before they load their dog in the car and head over to the dog park, or even doggie daycare. As of early last week over 1,300 dogs have been infected, the largest epidemic ever, and with a strain never seen in this area. It’s been on the radio and in the papers. Any dog exposed to the H3N2 virus is likely to catch it since they have no immunity against it, even if they were vaccinated, since the canine flu vaccine is not effective against this strain.

Today all three dogs, Cassie, Chipper and Buffy went to the vet for various checkups. I was a bit worried for Cassie, who is immuno-compromised by the drugs she is taking for leukemia. Luckily, our vet in a far northern suburb has not had any cases – yet.

The last time dog flu hit this area, about 7 years ago, I officially ended Cassie’s training for agility after our trainer’s dogs became ill. Cassie developed Coonhound paralysis back in October 2006 (Diseases November 28, 2014 post). This disease, the canine equivalent of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, occurs when antibodies attack the nervous system. The vet suggested avoiding dog parks, agility competitions, boarders, or groomers, or any place where many unknown dogs congregated since exposure to other illnesses might stimulate Cassie’s immune system and lead to a recurrence of the paralysis. After a few months of recovery, both of us missed agility training. I figured training with a small group of dogs would be okay if I kept her contact at a minimum. But the contagious nature of this illness caused me to decide it wasn’t worth the risk, and at that time the outbreak was minor compared to the present.

Symptoms: Coughing, runny nose, feeling lethargic, and not wanting to eat are the main symptoms – very similar to how people feel when they have the flu. Most dogs recover from it, but some may develop pneumonia, and it could be fatal in immune-compromised dogs.

At least five have already died from it

Concerns: The virus can survive outside of a warm body for up to 12 hours on hands, 24 hours on clothing and up to 48 hours on other surfaces.

So be extra careful with your dogs!

Chipper, Cassie and Buffy
Chipper, Cassie and Buffy

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