Dog Flu in Chicago, Many Questions


Dog adoptions have come to a halt at The Anti-Cruelty Society due to another outbreak of the canine influenza virus , and the strain of dog flu H3N2 has been an ongoing issue at Chicago Animal Care & Control. The flu has previously spread through several  other area shelters over the past year or so, including Anti Cruelty.

However, officials are now attempting to figure out what is currently going on at Anti Cruelty. Is this the same strain, H3N2, which somehow came to Chicago from Southeast Asia in 2015, and quickly sickened thousand of dogs, even killing some – and spread around America? Or might it be the only other known strain of canine influenza in the U.S., H3N8, which is less virulent than H3N2 and doesn’t generally make pets quite as sick. Or are the dogs at Anti Cruelty suffering from a new strain all together (which is unlikely but it is possible and scientists at Cornell are verifying).

When the answers are known, I will report them. What we do know is, unless this is a new flu strain, the dog flu is still alive an well in Chicago. After it came to Anti Cruelty from somewhere – it’s out in the community.  The only means to protect your dogs, either insure they are absolute hermits with no dog to dog contact, or vaccinate. Yesterday, our dogs received their vaccination for the dog flu. Initially, two shots are required (one shot and a booster) after that all you need is one annual shot. I chose the vaccine which covers both dog flu strains.

Meanwhile, if your dog coughs even once, see your veterinarian, agrees Cook County veterinarian Dr. Donna Alexander. Other symptoms include lethargy, a dog who doesn’t want to eat (who normally scarfs down food)…overall, symptoms in dogs are similar to flu symptoms in people including a fever (but we don’t take our dog’s temperatures at home). If you have any doubts be proactive – and contact your veterinarian, even if your dog has been vaccinated. Sometimes vaccinated dogs get sick too, but not anywhere near as sick as they would have gotten without the vaccine, or for as long – but veterinarians need to know this too.