LOXAHATCHEE GROVES, Fla. — Multiple dogs at Big Dog Ranch Rescue in Loxahatchee Grove have tested positive for canine influenza, a highly contagious respiratory disease.
The details were confirmed Wednesday by founder Laurie Simmons and the shelter's spokesman Chase Scott.
Scott said Big Dog Ranch Rescue took in a dog after it was surrendered by a Palm Beach County owner.
That dog later tested positive for canine influenza three days later, which Simmons said then spread to 50 to 60 dogs that are currently sick.
Four dogs have also contracted pneumonia. However, no dogs have died.
"(The surrendered dog) appeared to be healthy, was updated on vaccines, already spayed. So instead of putting it in quarantine, where we normally put all our shelter dogs coming in, we put it directly into our adoption buildings," Simmons said.
She said four adoption buildings at the facility have been on lockdown since June 8.
Simmons said they performed PCR tests on the dogs and have consulted a University of Florida doctor regarding the outbreak.
"It's like way bigger than anything we have ever seen," Simmons said.
She doesn't believe that any dogs adopted before June 8 were affected by the virus.
Currently, puppy cabins, which are separate and isolated from the affected areas, are the only areas where dog adoptions are being allowed.
Several adoption buildings will likely be shut down until mid-July.
Simmons said they will administer canine influenza vaccines to dogs that have not been affected by the disease starting Thursday.
"This is a highly infectious virus. If you are in contact, and the dog coughed on you, saliva on you, it can be carried on your clothes, your skin, your shoes and lives on surfaces for up to 48 hours," Simmons said. "If you are walking your dog, another dog coughs on the grass, your dog sniffs that spot, it can get the virus that way also."
Dr. Cynda Crawford with the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine said the disease is at a level in the county where dog owners and other facilities should be on alert.
"We have multiple confirmed cases not only in the dogs at the Big Dog Ranch shelter, but also in pet dogs out in the community, so it is good evidence the virus is here in Palm Beach County," Crawford said.
She said this marks the first return of the canine influenza virus in Florida since a big statewide outbreak in the summer of 2017.
The CDC says on its website that canine influenza is thought to pose a low threat to people.
Health experts say there is no evidence of the spread of canine influenza from dogs to people, and there have not been any cases of human infection with the canine influenza virus in the U.S. or world.
The signs of this illness in dogs are the following:
- Runny nose
- Eye discharge
- Reduced appetite
The CDC says most dogs affected by canine influenza recover within two to three weeks and only a small percentage die from the disease.