An outbreak of infections in animal shelters elsewhere in Florida reached the Alachua County Animal Shelter this week.
The Alachua County Animal Services announced Wednesday that six dogs in the shelter had contracted streptococcus zooepidemicus, commonly called ‘strep zoo’, and canine pneumovirus.
The shelter, located at 3400 NE 53rd Ave., is putting its dogs into quarantine for a 10-day period to prevent the spread of the infections.
Dr. Cynda Crawford, program director of Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program is teaming up with ACAS to stop the spread of the disease in the shelter and help with treatment for the sick dogs.
“Once a dog becomes infected, there is a lag time of less than seven days, typically two to four days, for onset of illness,” Crawford said. “This is one of the factors that contributes to easy and quick transmission of the infection between dogs since it takes a few days to notice any symptoms.”
Although the shelter doesn’t have a true isolation area where sick dogs can be separated from other dogs, the shelter is working with the resources and limitations that they have to stop the transmission of this virus, Crawford said.
ACAS started the 10-day quarantine process Wednesday by moving the sick dogs to one area of the shelter and creating a new housing area for the other animals. The sick animals are receiving medical care, and all dogs that could potentially have the infection are taking antibiotics for precautionary measures, Alachua County Animal Shelter Supervisor Jane Grantman said.
“Since pneumovirus is a virus, we have to wait for it to run its course which normally takes about 10 days,” Crawford said. “Strep zoo is treated with an antibiotic that will kill the bacteria. However, if the dogs are not treated quickly, the infection can possibly lead to life-threatening pneumonia.”
Crawford has three goals and objectives that she uses in crisis outbreak situations that have proven to be successful in previous cases: stop transmission in the shelter, don’t infect any more dogs and don’t send potentially infected dogs out to the public.
ACAS is asking pet owners who plan to bring their animals to the shelter to hold off temporarily to reduce the chance of spreading the infections, Grantman said. They are also encouraging people who find stray animals to care for them until the shelter reopens.
“We are more than happy to provide any crates or leashes in order to help with taking care of the animal for the time being,” Grantman said. “The shelter wants to help manage the animals in the community rather than expose them to the illnesses.”
Grantman suggests that if any pet owners notice any unusual symptoms in their animal to not hesitate to get the animal checked out by a veterinarian. ACAS is available to answer any questions one may have during the quarantine period at (352)-264-6870.
If the outbreak is successfully taken care of and the animals are medically cleared, the shelter should reopen to the public March 4.
“There are some excellent veterinarians currently working to solve this outbreak, and I expect things to return to normal soon,” Isaza said.