Dog owners in Chicago are being warned to keep their pets away from the city’s dog-friendly parks and beaches to help control the spread of the dog flu, which has killed five dogs in the area and sickened more than 1,000 more.
On Friday, the Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control urged pet owners to avoid not just dog parks, but group training activities, doggy day care, groomers, boarding facilities and other environments where dogs congregate or socialize until the outbreak — or epidemic, as some are calling it — subsides.
Signs posted at dog-friendly parks and beaches read:
“The Canine Influenza Virus (the Dog Flu) is causing illness throughout the Chicago area. All unvaccinated dogs may be at risk. Even dogs showing no sign of illness may carry this virus.
“PLEASE ENTER THIS DOG FRIENDLY AREA (DFA) AT YOUR OWN RISK.
“The virus is extremely contagious. Unvaccinated dogs exposed to the Dog Flu are more likely to contract the disease.”
The signs go on to list the symptoms of the dog flu: coughing, lethargy, difficulty breathing, nasal discharge and lack of appetite.
While people can’t catch it from dogs, the dog flu is is extremely contagious between dogs that come into close contact with each other.
Forty states have experienced outbreaks of the dog flu since the virus was discovered in 2004.
Experts say nearly every dog exposed to it will get the virus. About 25 percent of those don’t show signs of the sickness, but can still pass it on to other dogs.
Limiting socialization with other dogs is the best way to fight the illness, said Dr. Cynda Crawford, who helped discover the virus in 2005.
Crawford, with the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, told Steve Dale’s Pet World, a blog on ChicagoNow.com, that owners often aren’t aware their dogs are ill.
She advises limiting all socialization, including letting your dog be walked by a dog walker who takes dogs out in groups.
While there is a vaccine for dog flu, it is new, expensive, requires multiple shots and, as with the human vaccine, fails to guarantee a dog won’t catch the virus.
Chicago animal control officials said the outbreak could last several more weeks.
(Photo: from ChicagoNow.com)