An outbreak of canine influenza in Chicago that's killed at least five dogs and infected more than a thousand others is showing no sign of slowing down, veterinarians and health officials say.
The virus first appeared in the city several weeks ago and has since shuttered boarding kennels and forced pet owners to keep their dogs inside to avoid infection.
"We're seeing quite a bit of it and it doesn't seem to be relenting at this point," Dr. Dan Sanchez, a veterinarian with the South Loop Animal Hospital, told BuzzFeed News.
"We've probably seen anywhere between eight to fifteen cases a day for the last two weeks," he said.
One of the dogs Sanchez treated died from the disease.
"Everywhere in the city is seeing the same numbers. The ERs are seeing them come in non-stop and they've been overrun and they have no place to house these sick dogs.
"They're having to force people to wait in their cars instead of coming into the lobby where they could infect other dogs."
Signs have been erected in parks alerting dog owners of the "extremely contagious" virus and warning that they enter dog-friendly areas at their own risk.
PetSmart last week closed three "PetsHotels" in the city in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.
"Because of the highly contagious nature of canine influenza, we have made the decision to proactively close these three PetsHotels out of an abundance of caution," Dr. Robyn Jaynes, a veterinarian and director of Services Quality Assurance for PetSmart, said in a statement.
"We want to do what's right for our pets and our pet parents, and these closures are in the best interest of our community," added Gregg Scanlon, PetSmart's senior vice president of Store Operations and Services.
Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control officials have warned that the outbreak could last several more weeks.
Department administrator Dr. Donna Alexander said the virus is more severe than the common "kennel cough." She said the influenza's symptoms include "persistent and lingering cough, lethargic behavior, a poor appetite and a fever."
The virus is not contagious to humans or other household pets, Alexander said.
Dr. Sanchez told BuzzFeed News that dogs are not showing symptoms could still be infected. "The most concerning part is that dogs seem to be their most contagious right before they start showing symptoms," he said.
As such, people are being advised to isolate their dogs to prevent exposure.
"It's hard to predict how long this is going to last," Sanchez said. "It's certainly more severe and lasted much longer than I think anyone thought it would."
"We're finding it hard to make recommendations as to when the coast is clear," he said. "Right now we're still seeing a lot of cases, and more and more dogs are getting infected every day."