An animal shelter in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, temporarily shut down after dozens of dogs contracted canine influenza.
Blue Chip Farm Animal Refuge, home not just to dogs but also cats, rabbits, horses, goats and pigs, had to suspend its operations due to a virus outbreak infecting dogs, according to ABC affiliate WNEP-TV.
“A few of our dogs started to get diarrhea, but that’s pretty normal for dogs that are in a new stressful environment. When our longer-term dogs started to get diarrhea and started not wanting to eat, we realized they weren’t themselves, that’s when we knew something was wrong,” shelter volunteer Emma Ripka told the outlet.
Shelter staff said the virus has already infected at least 25% of their 40 dogs at the facility. Ripka explained that they shut down to prevent the disease from spreading.
“So that’s why we’re trying our best by closing down for a little bit to stop the spread so that it’s only in certain areas, and it doesn’t go any further,” she said.
In a Facebook post, the shelter stated that humans could not contract the virus. However, they could bring it home and infect their pets, causing the disease to spread.
“It’s not just in shelters. Neighborhoods can pass it around from dog to dog. Really be attentive to your pet, if they’re acting different than normal, if they have any GI issues or upper respiratory issues, definitely get them to the vet as soon as possible just to check out their symptoms,” Ripka added.
It’s not just the Luzerne County facility that got hit by the virus. Rescue workers said other shelters across the country are experiencing the same situation.
Not too far from Luzerne, the Speranza Animal Shelter in Cumberland County also got into crisis mode when all 50 of its dogs got sick at the same time.
The facility initially thought it was due to canine influenza, so it sent out samples for testing. In a social media update, the shelter revealed that none of the dogs tested positive for canine influenza. However, they tested positive for Streptococcus zooepidemicus — bacteria that can be passed from animal to animal but not to humans.
According to Speranza, the disease started spreading when a rescue dog from a Philadelphia shelter was brought in recently. The pooch did not show signs of illness when it arrived, but it got sick last weekend.
“It just started with two dogs coughing, and then all within like three or four days, everyone went downhill. In all 11 years, I’ve never had something this bad. We do our best, all shelters and rescues do their best, but sometimes it just happens,” Speranza president and founder Janine Guido told ABC27.
Speranza was notified Wednesday about an influenza outbreak in the Philadelphia shelter where the dog came from. At least three dogs from the Cumberland County facility were hospitalized amid the outbreak. But they have since returned to the rescue.