Changes Announced at Pet Resource Center
Hillsborough County's Pet Resource Center (PRC) is taking a number of steps to protect against the latest, highly contagious mutation of canine influenza known as H3N2 canine influenza virus, also known as dog flu.
No confirmed cases have been reported in Hillsborough, but Florida's first confirmed case of H3N2 dog flu was reported in Deland over Memorial Day weekend. The new strain is characterized by persistent coughing and, unlike all other forms of dog flu whose symptoms and risk of contagion only last for about a week, the H3N2 strain is contagious for at least 26 days and can live on surfaces for up to 24 hours.
To best protect dogs and residents in Hillsborough County, the County announces the following pro-active measures:
- PRC, located at 440 N. Falkenburg Road, will be closed to the public on Mondays, effective June 12. The closure will give veterinary staff more time to examine dogs and allow shelter staff to conduct weekly deep cleanings for added disease prevention. In addition, the closure will give the dogs and cats a day of rest from constant human interaction.
- Beginning July 1, pet intake will end an hour earlier, at 6 p.m., to allow more time for the veterinary staff to examine dogs that are received at the end of the day.
- Beginning July 1, owners who surrender dogs will be asked to make appointments so PRC can proactively combat outside contamination. At the first appointment, shelter staff will vaccinate the dog for all strains of the dog flu with the bivalent canine flu vaccine. Two weeks later, when the dog is surrendered by its owner, staff will administer a second booster shot, at which point the surrender fee will be waived. Owners who do not follow this two-week procedure will be charged $125 for testing, vaccination, and possible isolation, in addition to the surrender fee.
- Residents bringing in dogs or cats that are coughing or sneezing will be asked to keep the pet outside of Pet Resource Center and contained in the resident's vehicle to avoid possible contamination. PRC veterinary staff will provide an initial examination prior to the pet entering the building to ensure the safety of the pets inside the building.
- PRC Veterinary Services has been proactively vaccinating dogs coming into the shelter since the first confirmed Florida case in late May with the bivalent canine flu vaccine, which covers both the H3N2 and H3N8 strains of the dog flu. The isolation and medical treatment wing has been put under strict isolation rules and can only be accessed by employees with personal protection equipment.
PRC continues to monitor the dog flu situation across the nation and is in close communication with shelter medicine experts at the University of Florida's Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program. As measures are required to safeguard the pets of the shelter and the community, additional changes in policy or procedures may be required.
Dogs are at risk when around other dogs that may be sick or in areas other dogs hang out at. Dog parks, pet stores, day care centers, dog shows, and grooming salons are examples of places your dog can contract the dog flu from, if a contagious dog has been there. What makes this virus different is that it can travel up to 14' through the air and can live on surfaces for up to 24 hours. Vaccinating your dog is the best way to avoid him or her getting sick. Your veterinarian will be able to assist you with the two vaccinations needed.
According to the University of Florida, the H3N2 strain of the canine flu came into Florida from dogs and people who have attended a dog show. Pet Resources Center advises that special attention and precautions should be taken this weekend if you plan on attending the dog show at the State Fairgrounds.