Another outbreak of canine influenza in the Chicago area has animal shelters pleading for help.
The Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago said Monday 100 dogs at its shelter are receiving treatment for the contagious virus and all dog adoptions have been put on hold.
“We have to devote extra time and resources to caring for every sick dog in our shelter,” the shelter said in a message to supporters. “And now these wonderful animals have to wait at least several more weeks before they can possibly find their forever home.”
The Anti-Cruelty Society said it can take at least 21 days for each dog’s treatment. So far, the total cost for treating the 100 dogs is $28,350, the shelter said.
The shelter is pleading with supporters to donate funds to help care for the sick dogs amid the “troubling circumstances,” noting “the problem simply won’t go away.”
"It is a different strain than what we have seen before," said Dr. Robin Barbiers, president of the Anti-Cruelty Society. "It came from Korea last March."
Last week, an animal shelter in Northwest Indiana shut down indefinitely after an illness hit its entire dog population. Officials at the shelter suspected the illness was the dog flu that plagued the area last year.
The dog flu hit the Chicago area hard last spring and is still a major concern in the city and suburbs.
Last spring, more than 1,000 dogs in the Chicago area were sickened and at least five dogs killed during an outbreak of a strain of the virus that had never been seen before in the United States.
Vets at Care Animal Hospital say they’ve seen dozens of cases so far this year.
“We are seeing dogs that are contracting the illness very easily upon entering boarding facilities, grooming facilities and veterinary hospitals,” Dr. Peter Haase with the Care Animal Hospital of Arlington Heights said. “It’s very contagious. Dogs can contract it without actually nose to nose contact.”
Experts say the latest outbreak is not an epidemic yet, but the virus is spreading across the Chicago area and is extremely contagious. Veterinarians say the dog flu can be especially deceptive because dogs can remain contagious for nearly a month after pets stop exhibiting symptoms.
"This flu takes three weeks to become non-infectious, which is unheard of," Barbiers said. "Usually it is five to seven days and you are no longer contagious."
Experts said an effective vaccine has been developed and encourage pet owners to get their dog vaccinated. The illness can also be prevented if pets are kept away from pets that are already infected and also kept from areas that may be contaminated.
“Those dogs who are at daycare, kennels, or bark parks absolutely should receive those vaccines from their veterinarian” Haase said.