Fairfax Animal Shelter Canine Influenza Virus FAQ

Fairfax County Police Department
Public Information Office
4100 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax, Va. 22030
703-246-2253. TTY 703-204-2264. Fax 703-246-4253
July 26, 2013


Fairfax County Animal Shelter

Canine Influenza Virus FAQ

What is canine influenza

It is a contagious, respiratory disease in dogs that is caused by a virus that is specific to dogs, not humans.

Can humans catch canine influenza?

To date, there has never been a reported case of a dog to human transmission of canine influenza from dogs to people.  There is no evidence that this virus can infect humans.

Do the dogs at the shelter have canine influenza? 

At this time, the dogs at the shelter have been diagnosed with an unspecified upper respiratory illness.  Sick dogs have been tested and test results are expected to be back by July 30 or July 31. 

How is the shelter treating the dogs that are sick?

Sick dogs are being isolated from other dogs and are being treated with supportive care.  Some are receiving doxycycline, an antibiotic.  Others are being monitored closely.  Of the sick dogs currently in the shelter, all are stable and are showing signs of improvement.

Is the shelter accepting surrendered dogs at this time?

No.  At this time, all areas of the shelter have been exposed to dogs infected with upper respiratory illness.  This means that new dogs cannot be brought into the shelter without exposing them the illness.  By the middle of next week (July 30 or 31), the shelter hopes to have cleared and disinfected some areas of the shelter so that new dogs can come in. 

Does the Fairfax County Animal Shelter vaccinate for Canine Influenza? 

All dogs receive bordatella and distemper vaccines upon arriving at the shelter.  There is a vaccine for Canine Influenza, but it is not routinely administered because it takes several weeks for it to become effective, and a second vaccine is required after the first.  Many dogs do not stay in the shelter for more than one to two weeks, so a routine canine influenza vaccine is not practical.

Is the shelter euthanizing sick dogs? 

Sick dogs are being treated with supportive care and in some cases, antibiotics.  According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, Canine influenza has a mortality rate of 5 – 8%.  If any dogs become gravely ill and are beyond treatment, they may be humanely euthanized to prevent suffering.  Currently, there are no dogs that are showing signs of developing pneumonia or other life-threatening symptoms.

I would like to come to the shelter to look at animals, but I am afraid of the risks.  What should I do?

The shelter will remain open and animals will be available for adoption.  Canine influenza does not spread from dogs to humans, so you will not be at risk.  If you have other pets at home, especially dogs, it is recommended that you wash hands thoroughly after handling any shelter dogs and change your clothes before you handle your personal pets. 

Are any of the cats at the shelter sick as well? 

At this time, none of the cats are displaying any symptoms of upper respiratory illness. 

Are dogs available for adoption at the shelter at this time?

Yes.  Healthy dogs will be available for adoption.  Adopters will be given special instructions and information about upper respiratory illness and canine influenza. 

My dog has a cough.  What should I do? 

Schedule a same or next day appointment with your veterinarian so that your dog can receive a correct diagnosis and be treated accordingly.  Most forms of canine respiratory illness can be easily spread between dogs, so keep your dog isolated from other dogs if you suspect respiratory sickness. 

What can I do to help?

Donate toys: Toys must be discarded frequently during this time, to prevent the illness from spreading.  The shelter uses hard, rubber toys like Kongs and Nylabones which can be sanitized and used repeatedly.  Other toys, like tennis balls can be used and discarded.  No rawhide, rope or stuffed toys

Foster a dog: Healthy dogs that have been exposed to upper respiratory illness and dogs that are in recovery need to be isolated from other dogs for several weeks.  The shelter is seeking foster providers with no other pets in the home who are willing to foster a dog until the illness is out of the shelter.  If you do not have other pets in the home and would consider fostering a healthy or recovering dog, please contact Kristen.auerbach@fairfaxcounty.gov or call 703-324-0208.   


To request this information in an alternate format, call the Public Affairs Bureau at 703.246.2253. TTY 703-877-3715

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