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Uptick in canine virus causes SDHS to limit intake of owner-surrendered pets

Testing has confirmed that this condition on the rise in the shelters is canine pneumovirus.

SAN DIEGO — A recent uptick in a respiratory virus among shelter dogs has caused the San Diego Humane Society to quarantine affected animals and limit shelter intake until further notice, it was announced Monday.

Testing has confirmed that this condition on the rise in the shelters is canine pneumovirus.

The shelter is currently unable to take in owner-surrendered dogs at any campus location -- San Diego, El Cajon, Escondido and Oceanside -- except in cases of emergency that threaten the health of the pet.

"We suspect a dog had it that came into our care and because there is no vaccine for this virus and it’s a new virus, dogs don’t have natural immunity and are not protected and in a shelter environment it can spread quickly and that’s probably what happened. Canine pneumovirus is a relatively new virus and causes symptoms such as coughing, sneezing and nasal discharge," said Dr. Zarah Hedge, chief medical officer for SDHS. "While most affected animals experience minor cold- like symptoms, a small number of dogs may develop pneumonia.

"This virus often spreads through kennels because of the high number of dogs in one location," she said. "In a shelter setting, it's critical that we quarantine sick dogs for 14 days so they can rest, recover and we can prevent spread of the virus to the rest of the shelter population or the community. In order to preserve space, we are asking for the public's support to limit the number of dogs being brought to our shelters."

SDHS offers alternatives to help community members who are unable to keep their dogs, including:

  • Rehoming resources, which help owners find new homes for pets online, rather than taking them to a shelter;
  • A community pet pantry that offers free pet food and supplies to pet owners in need;
  • Housing and eviction resources to help pet owners find housing in San Diego County; and
  • Behavior and training tools and services.

SDHS President and CEO Gary Weitzman called on San Diegans for assistance during this outbreak.

"This is a challenging situation occurring during the busiest time of the year," he said. "We are working to resolve this as quickly as possible, and we sincerely appreciate our community's understanding and support.

"This relatively new virus is already present in the community, Weitzman said. "Most dogs will develop only mild symptoms but if you notice cold-like symptoms in your dog at home, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to evaluate your dog and recommend an appropriate course of treatment. 

"I don’t think there is any reason for people to be afraid to take to their dog to public spaces, or boarding and daycare, just make sure dogs are up to date on their vaccines and microchipped," said Dr. Hedge.

Dr. Hedge also says the July 4th holiday weekend is the busiest weekend the shelter has an influx of stray dogs brought in. She urges people to have their dogs microchipped and to be safe indoors during the holiday weekend.

For more alternative rehoming resources click here and for the community pantry click here. 

WATCH RELATED: 'Project Street Vet' giving veterinary care to pets of owners experiencing homelessness (June 2022)

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