Dog flu out­break gained foothold at dog­gie day cares

The China Post - - LIFE - BY CARLA K. JOHN­SON

Many ur­ban­ites use dog­gie day cares while they work long hours. Pay­ing oth­ers to ex­er­cise their pets, own­ers can forgo long walks and en­joy guilt-free pooch snuggling in the evenings. While usu­ally a healthy ex­pe­ri­ence for the dogs, the day care en­vi­ron­ment, with dozens of pets min­gling, con­trib­uted to an epi­demic of dog flu in Chicago that is spread­ing in the Mid­west, ex­perts say.

The ill­ness could arise in other ur­ban ar­eas af­ter sweep­ing through the city where it took ad­van­tage of spring break board­ing and sick­ened more than 1,100 dogs.

Ex­perts at Cor­nell Uni­ver­sity’s Col­lege of Ve­teri­nary Medicine say the H3N2 dog flu virus likely arose from viruses cir­cu­lat­ing in live bird mar­kets in Asia. It spread among dogs in South Korea and parts of China. An out­break hit Thai­land in 2012.

Be­fore now, the strain hadn’t been seen in North Amer­ica. That sug­gests a re­cent in­tro­duc­tion from Asia.

Not all in­fected dogs show symptoms. Some get a cough, runny nose and fever. Se­vere cases can lead to pneu­mo­nia. Six dogs have died in the Chicago-area out­break. Cases have also been re­ported in Wis­con­sin, Ohio and In­di­ana.

Young pro­fes­sion­als living in Chicago’s high-rises have lit­tle time dur­ing the work week to play fetch and take long walks, said Bev­er­ley Petrunich, co-owner of DoGone Fun, a day care and board­ing fa­cil­ity. When the virus emerged in Chicago, her ca­nine clients were hit hard. Petrunich con­sulted with vets, then closed for five days in late March to con­trol the out­break.

Dogs that seemed healthy “would come in with the virus and con­tam­i­nate other dogs,” Petrunich said. “We de­cided, the only way we can stop this is to stop hav­ing the dogs in­ter­act with each other and the only way we can do that is to close.”

The virus hit just be­fore spring break trips and Easter fam­ily gath­er­ings, when fam­i­lies had re­served ken­nel space for their dogs. Boarded dogs caught flu from other dogs, adding to the out­break, said Dr. Ken Goldrick, a vet­eri­nar­ian at Fam­ily Pet An­i­mal Hos­pi­tal in Chicago.

“We saw many fam­i­lies that week af­ter Easter,” Goldrick said. “They’d say, ‘We boarded him for the week­end while we went to visit fam­ily, and now he’s cough­ing.’”

Day care clients pro­vide key rev­enue for Tucker Pup’s Dog Ac­tiv­ity Cen­ter in Chicago, said owner Joel Spainhour. But he lost 80 per­cent of his reg­u­lars as of­fi­cials warned the public to avoid dog parks, ken­nels and al­low­ing dogs to play with other dogs.

“The day care dogs for the last three weeks have been down dramatically,” Spainhour said. “They are start­ing to come back now.”

But some say the epi­demic isn’t over.

“The ma­jor­ity of vet­eri­nar­i­ans are still re­port­ing an in­creas­ing num­ber of an­i­mals com­ing in with re­s­pi­ra­tory symptoms,” said Dr. Donna Alexander, a vet who is ad­min­is­tra­tor of the Cook County Depart­ment of An­i­mal and Ra­bies Con­trol. An­i­mals can still spread the dis­ease up to four weeks af­ter they stop cough­ing, she cau­tioned.

The new strain could arise in other parts of the coun­try.

“The world is a very small place, and viruses eas­ily travel from one part of the world to an­other,” said Dr. Amy Glaser of Cor­nell. “We can ex­pect it to hap­pen more fre­quently.”

AP

In this Thurs­day, April 16 photo, Bev­er­ley Petrunich, co-owner of DoGone Fun, a day care and board­ing fa­cil­ity, vis­its with some of her clients in Chicago.

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