by Kimberly Wade
Two weekends ago, there was an article in RGJ which mentioned both Nevada Humane Society and the SPCA of Northern Nevada. It specifically referred to our collaborations with other shelters and rescues across the state as we transport homeless pets to Washoe County to provide them with a lifesaving opportunity through our organizations—therefore saving more lives statewide. The concern was making sure the animals that are being brought in and adopted out are healthy.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the canine influenza, or dog flu, is highly contagious. Dogs of any breed, age, sex or health status are at risk of infection when exposed, and infection can occur year round. Almost all dogs exposed will become infected and the majority of them develop flu-like symptoms. It is not contagious to people. Supportive care should be provided to keep the dog comfortable and medications may be necessary but most dogs recover within a few weeks.
In the last two months, within the Reno area, there have been 80 new cases of canine influenza reported. We don’t want to scare you, but ultimately there are pet-related businesses that are choosing to temporarily shut their doors or not accept new clients. So what are we doing about it, especially since, as it was pointed out, we are bringing in animals from other areas?
At both Nevada Humane Society and the SPCA, best practices are in place for the safety of the dogs and our community. Both shelters have full-time veterinarians and clinic staff. There are strict protocols in place to ensure that any sign of illness is immediately reported, then dogs are quarantined and examined by a veterinarian. All dogs are vaccinated for canine influenza (as well as other illnesses) at the time they arrive at the shelter and receive the appropriate boosters.
Both shelters also offer the canine influenza vaccine (among others) at weekly vaccine clinics for the general public. Nevada Humane Society has a low-cost vaccine clinic every Saturday from 9am to 11am; the SPCA has a low-cost vaccine clinic the second and fourth Tuesday of each month from 5pm to 7pm and every Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 3pm.
Nevada Humane Society and the SPCA take any pet-related illness seriously. We work diligently to protect homeless pets and owned pets. When we take in pets from other shelters or rescues, we quarantine animals if we feel they may be contagious—and many times they are quarantined regardless if they are from specific regions where any illness is prevalent. We also do this with kittens and puppies—especially if they are too small to be vaccinated—in both the shelter and foster homes. If animals are surrendered, we have a thorough discussion with their owner to determine if the dog could have been exposed, and we work with them to try and keep the animal out of the shelter until a quarantined period has passed.
So what can you do? Learn the basics about the illness and how to protect your dog:
- Canine Influenza is spread primarily through the air, so coughing and sneezing even 20 feet away can cause infection
- It can spread by people moving between an infected dog and uninfected dog or contaminated objects (bedding, food bowls, etc.)
- Signs of the illness range from mild to severe
- Symptoms include coughing, possible nasal or eye discharge, lethargy, reduced appetite and fever
- Secondary bacterial infections can also occur if not handled in a timely manner
- Talk to your vet (establish a relationship with a full-service, private vet if you don’t already have one) and see if the vaccine is right for your dog
- Wash your hands between dog-to-dog contact, and if you don’t have to, avoid petting other dogs
- Avoid dog-friendly places, such as parks, daycares or other areas dogs may gather, as the virus can live outside of the host for up to 48 hours
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