A spike in reported cases of canine infectious respiratory disease (CIRD), or “canine flu” has been reported in the Chicago area since the beginning of the year, resulting in the death of at least five dogs. This has prompted the Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control (CCDARC) to warn dog owners to take extra precautions as the outbreak could last for several weeks before it subsides.
Dr. Donna Alexander, CCDARC administrator, said voluntary reporting to the Department of disease surveillance conducted by veterinarians has identified more than 1,000 cases of CIRD, or canine flu, unrelated to “kennel cough”, as well as five fatalities. CIRD is distinguished from kennel cough by its severity, possible consequences and diagnostic confirmation.
The age of the animals presenting with CIRD symptoms vary, but more severe forms are being seen in dogs under 1 year of age and greater than 7, she said.
Symptoms include persistent and lingering cough, lethargic behavior, a poor appetite and a fever. If you observe or suspect your dog may be suffering from any or all of these symptoms, the animal should be seen by a veterinarian, Dr. Alexander said.
Additionally, she recommended that until incidents of the disease diminish, dog owners should avoid pet friendly areas such as dog parks, not allow their dogs to play with other dogs, avoid group dog training activities, and, if possible, not board their pets. Dogs can be contagious even if they are not showing any of the CIRD symptoms, Dr. Alexander said.
While CIRD is highly contagious for dogs, it is not contagious for humans or other household pets such as cats. However, the virus that causes CIRD can live on fabrics and hard surfaces and can be transmitted from person to dog if the person has come into contact with a dog carrying the virus. To avoid such transmission, Dr. Alexander recommends thorough hand-washing after touching or petting a dog.
A vaccine that counters CIRD is available and can be administered by a veterinarian. This vaccine is separate from the kennel cough vaccine.