The dog flu news gets worse for Chicago pets

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A dog desperate for a trip to the dog park and canine companionship
  • Aimee Levitt
  • A dog desperate for a trip to the dog park and canine companionship
Just in time for fine spring dog-walking weather, vets at Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin teamed up to drop some more crappy news on the dogs of Chicago: the outbreak of K9 flu, which has infected more than 1,000 dogs, emptied dog parks and doggy day cares, and given even the most innocent sidewalk butt-sniff the feel of a criminal activity, is even worse than we thought.

The dog flu currently circulating throughout Chicago is not the more common H3N8 strain. Instead, the Cornell and Wisconsin vets informed the world on Saturday, it's H3N2, previously unknown outside Asia.

H3N2 is far more vicious than H3N8. Infected dogs get sick faster, and it also affects cats. (H3N8 does not.) Like human flu, it is highly contagious. It causes lots of coughing and difficulty breathing. It can be deadly if it's not treated. Worst of all, there's no vaccine for it. Doctors are cross-testing it with the existing H3N8 vaccine to see if there's any overlap.

Now some good news: dog flu doesn't appear to affect any animals besides dogs and cats.

The vets at Blum Animal Hospital, a perennial favorite in Best of Chicago voting, urge pet owners to bring in their animals if they notice unusual lethargy, coughing, difficulty breathing, or fever. (Normal body temperature for both dogs and cats is between 101 and 102.5 Fahrenheit.) They're also still recommending the vaccine, especially for dogs that have anything resembling a social life. The vaccine is a shot, followed by a booster two to four weeks later.

No one has offered any advice on how to break the news to dogs that despite the sunshine and mild temperatures, they will not be going out to play. My own dog, Abby, has taken to lying on the couch and glaring at me sullenly, and, when we do encounter other dogs on walks, lunging at them, which I know is a sign of her desperation for canine company but which their owners interpret as a sign of impending violence. It's a sad thing to be a dog during a springtime epidemic.

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