Officials on Friday warned that an outbreak of canine influenza, also known as dog flu, could last for several weeks.
The news comes as PetSmart closed a Chicago-area boarding center to contain the spread of the virus and announced plans two close two other locations.
The company said it transferred all of the dogs out of a PetsHotel in Lincoln Park, asking owners to pick up their dogs if they were able and transferring the remaining dogs to locations in Evanston and the South Loop. PetSmart will disinfect the Lincoln Park location and plans to reopen it on Sunday.
The company said it will not take new reservations for dogs at the other two locations and will close them for disinfection once the current occupants leave.
On Friday, the Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control said at least five dogs had died due to the virus and more than 1,000 others had been sickened in the Chicago area.
"We are currently seeing an unusually large number of cases of Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease in dogs and their situation is much more severe than we would typically expect,” said Jerry Klein, supervising veterinarian at Chicago Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center. “We don’t typically see such a large number of cases, and some of these cases are so severe that they require hospitalization. A few dogs have not survived.”
Officials said the reported cases of canine flu have been most severe in dogs less than one year old and older than seven.
Veterinarians have attributed the spread of canine influenza to the higher amount of dogs boarding due to spring break and the number of dogs in doggie day care.
The virus causes an upper respiratory disease in dogs with symptoms closely mimicking those of Kennel Cough. Symptoms include persistent and lingering cough, lethargic behavior, a poor appetite and a fever.
Donna Alexander, the administrator for the CCDARC, said dogs experiencing any of the symptoms should be seen by vet. Alexander also recommended avoiding dog-to-dog contact, group training, dog parks and boarding facilities.
Officials said the virus is highly contagious for dogs, but not for humans or other household pets. The virus can live on fabrics and hard surfaces and can be transmitted from person dog if the person has been in contact with a dog carrying the virus.
“Although many cases of respiratory disease can be treated at home, this strain of illness is very serious and can lead to complications such as pneumonia,” said Dr. Cohen. “We urge pet owners to minimize their dog’s exposure to other dogs.”
Vaccines are available, and treatment can include medication and fluids.