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Canine Flu Hits Edgewater, Hospitalizes Some Dogs And Closes Local Rescue

Dogs enjoying the Foster Ave. dog beach on Lake Michigan.  Credit:  Speedy Marie / Flickr

Dogs enjoying the Foster Ave. dog beach on Lake Michigan. Credit: Speedy Marie / Flickr

Now considered an “epidemic,” the new strain of canine influenza that started spreading rapidly in mid-March has caused many dog owners to fear for their pets’ health. Canine flu is a highly contagious respiratory infection that is caused by an influenza A virus. The canine influenza virus (CIV) is very similar to the virus that causes equine influenza. It is believed to have possibly mutated from this equine flu to CIV.

There seem to be two clinical syndromes of the virus affecting dogs. One is a mild strain that can be more easily treated; however, the more severe virus is usually accompanied by pneumonia. Local veterinarian Katie Baldwin, DVM and medical director at VCA Misener-Holley Animal Hospital explained to EVB that this is a truly unique virus. “It seems to be a new strain to the U.S. and likely came from Asia,” she said. “None of the dogs here have been exposed to it before and so it is likely that as many as 80 percent of them may get sick, though the majority of pets will have a relatively mild disease, including a cough that may last anywhere from 10-21 days. Some may also lose their appetite and become lethargic. Supportive care is needed in these patients and some may need antibiotics to prevent bacterial infections.”

So what should you be on the lookout for in your pet? According to Baldwin, “the signs may include cough, lethargy, low grade fever and loss of appetite. Less commonly, there may be some nasal discharge or sneezing.”

The Chicago Park District has posted signs at all dog beaches and dog parks warning pet owners about the CIV virus. Baldwin advises all dog owners to take precautions. “At this point, it is not known if the available flu vaccine is protective of this strain of flu, but it may be, so getting vaccinated may be a good idea, especially for dogs at high risk who spend time with other dogs,” she said. “It is probably advisable to keep your dog close to home and avoid places where other dogs congregate. The virus can remain in the environment for up to two days, so it can be very contagious. The two-three days before they show signs is the time when they are the most contagious.” She added that there has also been a report of this strain of flu being transmitted to cats, “so it is important to keep an eye on our kitties as well.”

Popular animal rescue here in Edgewater, Famous Fido Rescue and Adoption Alliance at 5430 N. Clark, has been hit hard by the virus. Several of their dogs contracted CIV, and one dog has even been hospitalized. The organization posted on its Facebook page, “one (of our dogs) is hospitalized and on oxygen. Our blind dog, Toby, is also very sick and may also need to be hospitalized. Several others have the flu at various levels of severity.”

The flu outbreak has caused Famous Fido to close not only the rescue, but also the resale shop and Happy Tails Grooming. Because it depends on those additional businesses finances, it is now relying 100 percent on donations to pay for the vet bills associated with running the rescue. Famous Fido added on its Facebook page, “Emergency vets will not treat the dogs without payment in full. We need your help more than ever!”

Famous Fido has already reached $2,600 of its $6,000 YouCaring.com campaign goal to help during this crisis. If you wish to donate, go to https://www.youcaring.com/canineflu.

If you do notice any of these signs, call your vet for advice.

 


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