Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Strikes Chicago Metropolitan Area

Chicago, IL – The Chicago Veterinary Medical Association recommends dog owners take immediate, precautionary measures to prevent their dogs from exposure to Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD). There is an increase in the number of severe respiratory cases which are being reported throughout the Chicago metropolitan area.

Dr. Donna Alexander, Director of Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control, is working closely with the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association. Based upon the preliminary data from Chicago area veterinarians that has been reviewed and compiled by her through March 31, 2015, Dr. Alexander has stated:

“The summary of those hospitals that reported through the CVMA to our offices and those who reported directly to this office indicates that 73% of those responding note an increase in CIRD. For those that supplied exact number of animals, we can report that there have been 1,013 cases of CIRD since January and 5 mortalities. The age of the animals presenting vary but show more severe forms in dogs under 1 year of age and greater than 7 years of age. Few veterinarians are submitting diagnostic specimens for evaluation. Of those submitted for PCR or other testing, the majority came back negative, some are still pending. Of those reporting positive, 93% are positive for Canine Influenza.”

Information to date suggests that the canine influenza virus may be the primary causative agent associated with the increased number of severe respiratory cases currently being seen by Chicago area veterinarians. 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.

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. Testing for canine influenza is available, and best results are obtained from samples taken very early in the onset of the illness. Sick dogs should be isolated from other animals.

Dr. Brendan McKiernan, Director of the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana and internationally renowned specialist in respiratory diseases of dogs and cats, states that “Avoidance of exposure is the name of game for now.”

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

In addition to the canine influenza virus being transmitted directly from dog to dog, the virus can live on hard surfaces and fabric materials making these items contaminated as well. To help minimize the spread of disease, it is also crucial that everyone should observe basic sanitation protocols, such as washing hands after touching animals or handling any items like food bowls, water bowls, toys, crates, and cages. These items should also be thoroughly cleaned. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, “The canine influenza virus appears to be easily killed by disinfectants in common use in veterinary clinics, boarding facilities, and animal shelters.”

Vaccines are available for some of the causative agents responsible for Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD). 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.


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.