Pet Owners Urged to Remain on Heightened Alert due to Canine Influenza Virus

Chicago, IL – The Chicago Veterinary Medical Association strongly recommends dog owners to remain on heightened alert and take precautionary measures to prevent their dogs from exposure to the Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC).

Dr. Donna Alexander, Director of the Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control, indicates severe canine respiratory cases are not diminishing at this time throughout the Chicago metropolitan area, that to date more than 1,700 have been reported to her. In April 2015, two more deaths from CIRDC were reported bringing the number to eight known fatalities.

Due to the extremely contagious nature of the canine influenza virus, all dogs are at serious risk of infection when exposed to this virus. Even dogs exhibiting no signs of illness can be contagious, asymptomatic carriers to other dogs.

According to Chicago Veterinary Medical Association President Dr. Anthony Coronado,

“The crisis is not over; however, the protocols enacted during the outbreak have helped to slow the development of new cases. It is imperative to continue to embrace these same measures to prevent a relapse. It is important to remember that Canine Influenza Virus is a new disease in the canine world, and much like the human influenza, there are multiple strains. This is illustrated by the fact that the recent outbreak has been attributed to the H3N2 strain and not the H3N8 strain in the current vaccine. While new vaccines are forthcoming, all unexposed dogs are at risk. Those that did not contract the disease during the initial outbreak are still very susceptible. If we relax the protocols now, before the crisis is fully past, we risk a similar rise in cases that we experienced during the beginning of the outbreak. It is the current recommendation of the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association to continue to exercise protective measure to prevent exposure and spread of the disease.”

Pet owners should contact their veterinarian immediately if they see any of the following symptoms in their dog(s): persistent, hacking cough, lethargic behavior, a poor appetite, nasal discharge, trouble breathing, or a fever. Sick dogs should be isolated from other animals.

Due to the high risk of canine influenza virus spreading from dog to dog, pet owners should exercise caution and avoid allowing their dogs to either socialize with other dogs or participate in any group dog training activities. Pet owners are also advised to not board their dogs at kennels and to avoid doggie day care, dog parks, and grooming facilities until further notice.

Avoidance of exposure is especially important now as pet owners travel around the Chicago area and out of state with their dogs because of the warmer weather and the approaching Memorial Day weekend.

Vaccines are available for some of the causative agents responsible for the Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex. Testing for the canine influenza virus, including the H3N2 strain, is available with best results obtained from samples taken very early in the onset of the illness. The Chicago Veterinary Medical Association recommends that pet owners speak with their veterinarian about available vaccinations based upon lifestyle and risk exposure of their pets.

Please visit the CVMA website at www.chicagovma.org for CIRDC updates and resources.

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The CVMA is an association of over 1000 veterinarians and 4000 support staff who lovingly assist more than one million Chicago area pets and their families. The membership of the CVMA is dedicated to the health and well-being of animals through its nurturing of the human animal bond.

The CVMA will strive to fulfill the diversified needs of its members by providing nationally recognized CE programs, cultivating membership involvement, and offering innovative member services and exemplary public awareness.

Since 1896, the CVMA has continued a proud tradition of providing its members with vital services and programs which have expanded dramatically over a century to meet the ever-changing needs of the veterinary profession and its diverse patients and clients.

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