Dog flu cases on the rise in Chicago area

Sarah Schulte Image
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Dog flu cases on the rise, veterinarian says
One local veterinarian says there's been an increase in suspected cases of canine influenza.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- One local veterinarian says there's been an increase in suspected cases of canine influenza, although there is a vaccine you can get for your pet.

Buster, a 9-year-old boxer mix, is in isolation at a Lakeview animal hospital. Ollie, a Chihuahua/Jack Russell mix, is headed in the same direction.

Both dogs have been diagnosed with pneumonia, a symptom of canine influenza.

"There has been a massive outbreak of infectious respiratory disease in the city of Chicago and suburbs," said Dr. Natalie Marks, Blum Animal Hospital.

Dr. Marks says Blum Animal Hospital has seen between five and 15 cases a day.

Waiting for test results to confirm the diagnosis, Dr. Marks and other area vets suspect the dogs have the flu. The Chicago area hasn't seen such an outbreak since 2008. Dr. Marks says canine influenza symptoms are more severe and dangerous than kennel cough.

"Dogs with influenza sick very quickly, one to three days, very lethargic, high fever, pneumonia, high-risk," Marks said.

Dogs at the highest risk are those exposed to other dogs, pets at dog parks or dog care.

Elizabeth Estes believes her dog Ollie picked it up at his doggie day care. Estes brought Ollie to the animal hospital Wednesday morning after he became sick overnight.

"Yesterday, he was running around, then all of sudden, boom, cough, rough night, no sleep," Estes said.

Because canine influenza is highly contagious with other dogs, vets recommend a flu shot; yes, they make one for dogs.

"I'll definitely get him a flu shot the next time, this is awful to watch your dog feel this way and not be able to breath," Estes said.

To control the outbreak, Marks strongly encourages every dog owner to talk to their vet about getting the vaccine.

Just like a human flu shot, it cannot be given to dogs who are already sick. Vets say the risks of the vaccine are minor, but the benefits can be major in preventing the spread of the virus.