Dog flu hits Orange County adoption shelter

The Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando said two dogs in their shelter have tested positive for the H3N2 Canine Influenza.  Additionally, the shelter’s veterinarian Dr. Julie Andersen said most of the rest of the dogs in their kennels were also showing symptoms of the illness as of Friday.

"Between 30 and 35 [dogs] right now,” said Dr. Andersen. “We have a total of 50 to 60 dogs in the kennel and it's in all of the different kennels so we fully expect we'll be treating everybody."

The Pet Alliance has quarantined their entire dog population and have cut off dog adoptions for at least a month to let the illness run its course. On Friday, only limited staff members wearing protective equipment were allowed into the area to take care of the dogs.

Alliance Executive Director Stephen Bardy said they are trying to stay ahead of the highly contagious virus and keep it from spreading outside of the shelter. The Alliance is posting updates about the situation on social media and Bardy said they’ve been in contact with Orange County Animal Services to keep them updated on the situation.

Additionally, the shelter is offering free vaccinations against the virus to anyone who’s adopted dogs from them in recent weeks, and they’re planning a vaccination clinic in the parking lot of their Orlando shelter on Sunday.

Andersen said there’s no reason to panic over dog flu, but it’s not a bad idea to take precautions. She recommends the vaccine for dog owners who frequently take their canines to dog parks, boarding facilities, day cares, or anywhere else their confined in close quarters with other dogs.

H3N2 is transmitted through the air and through close contact between dogs, so shelters like the Pet Alliance are especially susceptible. The illness is very rare and has only been seen in the US a handful of times; one of the worst outbreaks was in the Chicago area just a few years ago.

Symptoms include coughing, discharge, lethargy and other cold like symptoms. Andersen said dog flu is very treatable, though can carry nasty side-effects and be dangerous if not treated. It generally takes about 4 weeks for the dog to no longer be a carrier.

Shelter staff said cats can also get the illness, but there is no vaccine for them. The Pet Alliance said their cat area is on a different air system away from the dogs, so they don’t believe there’s any concern there.

The Pet Alliance will continue to adopt out cats for now. Their Sanford location is unaffected by the outbreak and will continue to offer all adoptions as usual.