ashland.news
July 21, 2024

Jackson County animal shelter resumes dog adoptions following canine illness concerns

A volunteer works at the Jackson County Animal Shelter on South Pacific Highway in Phoenix. Rogue Valley Times photo by Jamie Lusch
December 5, 2023

Owners advised to avoid exposing their pets in ‘social areas,’ including dog parks and rest stops

By Nick Morgan, Rogue Valley Times

Jackson County’s animal shelter is resuming dog adoptions two weeks after concerns of spreading a new, mysterious form of “kennel cough” prompted a weeklong closure and another week of quarantine protocols among the shelter’s animal population.

The animal shelter, 5595 S. Pacific Hwy., Phoenix, planned to resume dog adoptions Tuesday, according to a post on the official Jackson County Animal Services Facebook page. Further, adoption fees “will be waived (Tuesday) based on capacity pricing.”

The shelter temporarily closed its doors Nov. 21 with guidance from the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association and the Oregon Department of Agriculture after a significant fraction of the shelter dogs showed symptoms of a viral respiratory illness known as Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex, or CIRDC.

The illness typically leads to a persistent, prolonged bronchitis that can last six to eight weeks and does not respond to antibiotics. In the most severe cases, the illness causes a rapid viral pneumonia in which the pet’s condition can rapidly deteriorate in one to two days.

In the Rogue Valley, severe cases have been rare, according to Dr. Jamie Arvizo, an emergency veterinarian at Southern Oregon Veterinary Specialty Center in Central Point. SOVSC is the only 24-hour emergency vet clinic in the region.

“After reviewing our caseload, it appears we have only had three suspected cases at our hospital since the beginning of November,” Arvizo said in an email. “All of those cases were within the first week of November and all the dogs survived.”

Arvizo said the illness is not at the level of “pandemic situation for dogs,” but there are plenty of reasons for pet owners to take precautions here and across the country.

The canine illness first popped up in New Hampshire in the summer of 2022, and over the past year and a half has spread through New England and west into Colorado and Oregon. According to the University of New Hampshire’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, tests seeking to find out if the illness is a coronavirus or in any way related to COVID-19 have turned up negative.

Samples from sick pets around the country have yet to turn up much of anything about what’s causing the new illness, but Arvizo said veterinarians believe it to be viral because dogs don’t respond to antibiotics.

“It can potentially be serious for the dog,” Arvizo said, adding that “the majority of cases they don’t become extremely ill.”

Typically, the illness will lead to a persistent cough that lasts about two months, according to Arvizo. Lethargy and lack of appetite are signs of something more serious.

“If their dogs are not eating or drinking, or they’re really lethargic, those are absolutely reasons for bringing their pet in,” she said.

Because the illness is viral, vets are limited in their treatment options. A dog being able to eat and drink helps them keep their strength up while fighting the illness.

“The pet just has to ride it out,” Arvizo said. “If they’re still eating and drinking, well, that’s always a good benchmark.”

Arvizo said the strain is “more virulent” than earlier forms of kennel cough, meaning that dogs exposed to the virus are more susceptible to infections. 

“To keep your dog as healthy as possible, keep him out of dog social areas,” Arvizo said. 

She also advised people to be mindful of other exposures when traveling, including rest areas.

“It isn’t just taking pets to the dog park that’s the problem,” Arvizo said.

The greatest risk is to pets that are immunocompromised, of geriatric age or have heart conditions. She encourages owners of pets with underlying conditions to carefully consider their travel plans.

“I would really caution them and not board their elderly pet, especially during the holidays, and find a different option,” Arvizo said.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at nmorgan@rv-times.com or 458-488-2036. This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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