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[UPDATE] Dog Flu Cases Currently On The Rise In Chicago

By Danette Chavez in News on Mar 30, 2015 8:50PM

(A healthy pup visits the vet/ Photo: Courtney Mowry)

Update, April 3, 10 a.m.: The dog flu, or canine influenza, situation in Chicago is now being called an "epidemic." Animal hospitals are overwhelmed with cases and dog parks are now being prompted to post warning signs. ABC 7 reminds owners if your dog has a high fever, loss of appetite, is lethargic and has a persistent cough, there is a good chance your pet is sick. Veterinarians are advising dog owners to keep their pets away from close contact with other dogs or areas where dogs have been and to clean anything a dog touches. Until the outbreak is under control, the Chicago Park District is posting warning signs at dog parks to alert pet owners. Vets are counting on prevention, getting a flu vaccine for your healthy pup, awareness and communication to help stop the spread of the outbreak.

Puppy parents and canine caregivers, beware: there's an outbreak of the dog flu in Chicago. Although a vaccine is available, it can only be administered if your pup isn't already ill. And steering clear of the illness can prove difficult.

Though there has been some debate about whether we're seeing a flare-up of the flu or bordetella (kennel cough), local veterinarian Dr. Natalie Marks of Blum Animal Hospital has confirmed that her facility has seen five to 12 cases of canine influenza a day in recent weeks. Citing the illness as "high-risk," Dr. Marks warns that it develops "very quickly, [in] one to three days" and that sick pups will have a cough and present as "very lethargic, [with] high fever, pneumonia."

Dogs at the highest risk for exposure are those that spend time at dog parks or in doggie daycare, but the reality is that any dog that's around other pups is susceptible. Some dogs will only be carriers for the disease, which is what makes dog parks and other group facilities such a daunting prospect, both for patrons and operators. Dr. Marks recommends getting your dog a flu vaccination, as the risks are minimal and the benefits substantial.

The disease has not been found to transmit to humans, but we can inadvertently spread it after coming into contact with an infected dog. Although canine influenza is not often fatal, the CDC estimates that 80% of dogs infected will develop at least a mild case of the disease. So while you're out stocking up on antihistamines, maybe make an appointment with your vet and help keep Chicago's dogs healthy.