Public Notice Regarding Upper Respiratory Infections (URI) in dogs at the Cheyenne Animal Shelter
The Cheyenne Animal Shelter is experiencing an increased number of adult canines with upper respiratory infection (URI) in our Shelter located at 800 Southwest Drive. Most of the cases are mild and easily overcome with standard antibiotics and treatment of symptoms. However, the Shelter has experienced one recent severe case caused by a bacteria known as Streptococcus equi subspecies zooepidemicus and will close dog adoptions until Monday, August 13th while the population is being treated.
Tessha Winsch, DVM and the Shelter’s medical director, says she wants to assure the community that Shelter staff will be working overtime to identify, treat, care for and cure ALL of the animals that may have been exposed to this illness. Owners of recently adopted dogs will receive a letter indicating symptoms to look for and what steps they can take to treat a URI if necessary.
“This is our busiest time of the year for the number of animals in need of our help,” Winsch said. “While we are taking an abundance of caution for the dogs currently in our care, the Cheyenne Animal Shelter asks that owners wishing to surrender their dogs please give us at least four days before doing so. Those that absolutely must surrender their dogs are asked to call ahead to make arrangements at 307-632-6655.”
Dogs that arrive at the Shelter before Monday will be housed in a separate area of the Shelter.
Winsch added that the URI disease has shown up recently at a number of other shelters around the country including Weld County, Colorado. “Together, we are working with these other shelters and local veterinarians to curb the spread of disease and to discover new ways to implement a diagnosis and management plan,” she said. “Diagnostic tests, the treatment of sick animals and preventive measures are expensive and donations are more important than ever!”
FAQ Regarding Kennel Cough/Upper Respiratory Infections (URI) in dogs at the Cheyenne Animal Shelter:
Q: What is Kennel Cough/URI?
A: Upper Respiratory Infection is the formal diagnoses of a canine cold. URI can be caused by many different viruses (parainfluenza virus type 3, canine herpesvirus, canine respiratory coronavirus, canine pneumovirus, canine influenza virus and others) and a few types of bacteria, Bordetella bronchiseptica (commonly called “kennel cough”) or mycoplasma. This collection of infectious agents is also referred to as Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease complex or CIRD.
The word “upper” reflects the upper airways of the respiratory tract and means that symptoms form this infection are limited to coughing, nasal discharge and sometimes general symptoms of lethargy, loss of appetite and must be diagnosed with a radiograph and requires a longer treatment plan and more frequent rechecks by a veterinarian.
Normally, out in the community when a completely healthy, vaccinated and unstressed dog is exposed to these infectious agents, they may become infected but do not get sick because their immune system can fight off the infection before it really gets started. Unfortunately, when a dog enters the shelter, they are often stressed, may not have received recommended vaccinations and other preventive care. As well, they are at risk of developing URI that causes illness and are at risk for developing pneumonia. The strain we have discovered here is bacterial, which means it does not respond to vaccines.
Q: What does the Cheyenne Animal Shelter do to try to reduce the spread of URI between dogs in the kennels?
A: Every dog is given a brief intake exam, which includes vaccinations and de-wormer, as soon as possible from the time they arrive at the Shelter. While not perfect protections, these vaccines can help reduce the clinical severity of most strains of URI. For dogs that were previously vaccinated, it can significantly shorten the course of disease or prevent it all together by boosting their immunity.
Q: How does the Cheyenne Animal Shelter diagnose and treat URI in the Shelter?
A: Every day, Shelter staff walk through the Shelter to look at every dog in the kennels, specifically assessing for clinical signs of URI, which include decreased appetite, lethargy, coughing, hacking, nasal or eye discharge that is clear or yellow, increased rate of effort to breath and congestion.
Depending on the clinical signs observed, how long they stay in the shelter setting, age, body condition, breed, etc. of the dog, a treatment plan is made to either monitor that individual dog more closely, begin monitoring and starting a first-line antibiotic or in severe presentations to start the dog on a stronger, second-line antibiotic. We also work with foster volunteers to get the dog out of the shelter setting to reduce stress and facilitate recovery. Once the treatment plan is implemented, the dog’s response is monitored daily by a veterinarian and the treatment plan is updated as needed.
The Cheyenne Animal Shelter Medical Staff also performs periodic surveillance testing that tells us about the circulating respiratory viruses and bacterial agents in our shelter population.
Q: Does every dog who goes to the Cheyenne Animal Shelter end up with URI?
A: Similar to when children go to school, dogs in a kennel setting bring with them and are exposed to infectious agents that cause sickness. However, dogs who were vaccinated before entering the Shelter, those who only spend a few days in the kennels or who have been our kennels before, got sick and then got better, tend to not get sick or are very transiently sick and get well quickly, especially once out of the Shelter.
Q: Why doesn’t every dog just get started on antibiotics to prevent them from getting sick?
A: Again, just like with human colds, the pre-clinical and early phase of URI infection can be entirely caused by a virus, which is not responsive to antibiotic treatment. If every dog was started on doxycycline on arrival, for example, they would still get URI from the circulating viral CIRD agents. When a bacterial component arises, the antibiotic would not then work because it was started too early.
“Preventive” or “prophylactic” use of antibiotics to treat viral infections is considered an inappropriate use of antibiotics and contributes to resistance, which ultimately puts both canine and human lives at risk!
Q: I have recently adopted a dog from the Cheyenne Animal Shelter. What should I do?
A: Not all dogs that have been exposed will get URI. Be on the lookout for a cough, fever, loss of appetite, nasal or eye discharge and/or difficulty breathing. If you note any of these conditions in your pet, please contact your veterinarian or our Cheyenne Animal Shelter veterinary staff may provide treatment if needed.
Q: What can Volunteers, Adopters and Transfer Partners do to help dogs with URI at the Cheyenne Animal Shelter?
A: We must be vigilant with monitoring, implementing appropriate treatment plans and “isolating in place” whose dogs with clinical URI. Any dog that a volunteer, staff member or transfer partner notices having possible clinical signs of URI can be identified for a veterinary check and closer exam.
The next best thing is to get them out ASAP and until then, limiting the movement of clinically ill dogs. Also giving them warm blankets, appetite stimulating treats and quiet time out of the kennels (while avoiding direct contact with other dogs) can help a sick dog feel better faster and reduce the spread of these infections.
Foster care is another great way to get a dog with URI better faster. A home environment is much less stressful for the patient and the close monitoring and supportive care possible in foster care makes a world of difference to these sick pets! When fostering a URI patient, it is important to keep them separate from other dogs in the home and neighborhood, even when they are starting to feel better. Healthy, vaccinated dogs who are not stressed are much less likely to get sick and, if they do, are more likely to have a limited infection. For more information on fostering an animal, please contact Rheva Cliff, Foster Coordinator – 307-213-3058 or email@example.com.
Donations are needed now, more than ever to cover the cost of antibiotics and loss of revenue from having to close adoptions for the next few days. Donations may be made online at www.cheyenneanimalshelter.org or by sending a check to the Cheyenne Animal Shelter, 800 Southwest Dr., Cheyenne, WY 82007 – Attn: Development.