New respiratory disease affects local pets

An unnamed, highly contagious respiratory virus is sickening dogs and cats across the county.

Local dog boarding schools have struggled with outbreaks, and Whiskers, Nails and Puppy Dog Tails in Shelby said they had to close for about a week to do a deep clean after sweeping the facility.

“As far as we know, we don’t know the exact name of the virus,” said Melena Hope, manager of the grooming and boarding facility. “It’s a respiratory virus that circulates among dogs and cats.”

She said the virus, which looks like a mix of kennel cough and flu, emerged in the county about two months ago, and there have been at least 60 cases in Shelby and more than 100 cases in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

“It’s very contagious,” Hope said. “The best thing people can do is not take their pet to a public space where there are animals, like dog parks, or take them to pet stores, we wouldn’t recommend that. If people are around other animals in public or go to a friend who has animals, change your clothes or disinfect yourself before coming into contact with your animals.

She said it spreads through the air by coughing or barking.

The company is taking precautions to prevent the spread.

“For us, what we do is we have a different air ventilation system up front. If someone comes in to get their hair or nails cut, we do it in the car so they don’t have to come in, and we sanitize after each dog,” Hope said.

Local vets are treating him the same way they would treat kennel cough with the same medications, and he seems to be responding, she said.

“It takes a few weeks to get over it,” she said. “We haven’t seen any deaths.”

Symptoms include a hoarse cough, lack of interest in eating, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever.

“Their whole behavior is going to change a bit, you can tell they don’t feel good,” she said. “They mope a bit more and need more love.”

Since Whiskers, Nails and Puppy Dog Tails is a high volume facility, they opted to shut down for a week after an outbreak and did additional cleaning. They have also limited the number of dogs allowed into the facility.

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