Advice and Update Regarding Respiratory Virus Affecting Chicago Dogs


Guest Blog by Dr. Anne Cohen, board-eligible veterinary criticalist at Chicago Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center.

“Chicago and the surrounding suburbs are currently experiencing a widespread outbreak of Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD).  CIRD encompasses a group of bacteria and viruses.  While testing of many currently ill dogs has come back positive for Canine Influenza Virus (CIV), we are concerned that other viruses and bacteria may also be involved. This is a serious illness and is highly contagious. We urge all area dog owners to take steps to protect their pets.

In recent weeks, we have seen a significant increase in the number of sick dogs with respiratory illness.  Some dogs have developed pneumonia or other health problems that require veterinary medical care and hospitalization. The situation can become life-threatening, and for some dogs it has.


The most recognizable symptom of Canine Influenza and other respiratory diseases in dogs is a persistent dry cough and/or “honking” sound from your dog’s throat. Other symptoms include:

  • Coughing up a white, foamy phlegm.
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Rapid breathing
  • Nasal discharge

If your dog is experiencing these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Your veterinarian will be able to provide supportive care for your pet including fluids to prevent dehydration, anti-vomiting medication and in those cases where it’s appropriate, antibiotics. Your veterinarian may ask to run tests on your dog to determine the true cause of the illness.

It an important point, that we encourage you to consent to this testing to help determine exactly what is making your pet ill since several viruses and bacteria may be involved.  These tests are the IDEXX Respiratory Disease (CRD) RealPCR™ Panel (Comprehensive) with Culture (If indicated) Canine. Another test is the Antech Fast Panel® PCR Canine Respiratory Disease Profile.

How The Disease Is Spread

Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease and Canine Influenza Virus are highly-contagious and are easily spread by direct dog-to-dog contact or through contaminated objects or through the air. These viruses can even be transmitted on shoes or clothing to infect dogs.

Most dogs contract the disease from places with a high concentration of dogs such as:

  • Kennels
  • Pet shops
  • Boarding facilities
  • Dog day care
  • Dog parks
  • Groomers

Even dogs living in apartment complexes with large numbers of dogs are at risk. The disease is now so wide-spread that dogs not typically at risk may contract the disease.

Protecting Your Dog

We recommend that until the illness subsides (likely to be several weeks), you limit your dog’s exposure to other dogs. If possible, avoid areas where dogs congregate, like those listed above. Dogs remain contagious for two to three weeks after symptoms disappear, and should be kept isolated from other dogs to prevent the spread of disease.

What About Vaccinations?

Safe and effective vaccinations are available for the canine influenza virus and for Bordetella . Dogs who have already been vaccinated are at lower risk from the current outbreak, but may still be susceptible to other respiratory infections. Typically, the canine influenza vaccine is recommended for dogs that visit dog parks, doggy daycares, boarding kennels, etc as the vaccine reduces the severity and duration of disease and reduces the amount of viral shedding. However, due to the wide-spread nature of the disease, we believe that both the canine influenza and the Bordetella vaccines should be considered for all at-risk dogs in the area. You should consult with your veterinarian to determine if these vaccinations are appropriate for your dog(s) at this time.

Please note that a vaccination will not help a dog that has already been exposed to the virus. Additionally, the vaccination for CIV does require a booster shot two to four weeks after the initial vaccination. Full protection from the CIV vaccine occurs seven days after the last booster. Your primary veterinarian will be able to guide you as to what is best for your dog.

This serious and dangerous outbreak is a powerful reminder for pet owners to keep your pets’ vaccinations up-to-date!”

Dr. Cohen is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College; she received her DVM from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, Urbana

Chicago Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Visit or call 773-281-7110 for more information. Chicago Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center is located at 3123 N. Clybourn Ave. in Chicago.