EATONTOWN — The Monmouth County SPCA has temporarily closed its shelter because of an outbreak of H3N2 canine influenza.

The shelter in Eatontown has suspended all adoptions of cats and dogs and veterinary services at the Vogel Veterinary Clinic through at least Jan. 2.

H3N2 is a highly contagious infection but is treatable.

The shelter became aware of the presence of the influenza when the dogs were not responding to normal treatment of kennel cough, according to executive director Ross Licitra.

"We actually sent out cultures to gather analysis about what was going on. We realized in a very short period of time every single canine in our shelter was affected by this so we knew it was a massive outbreak," Licitra told New Jersey 101.5.

Even before the results came back, the veterinary staff suspected influenza when the dogs displayed symptoms and became violently ill. Because the strain is "very, very, very" contagious, they put the shelter on a full lockdown, according to Licitra. The results came back on Thursday and confirmed their diagnosis.

Monmouth County SPCA in Eatontown (Monmouth County SPCA)

The dogs were cordoned from the rest of the population and the facility was closed to all but regular staff. The county health department was notified.

"It's not the kind of flu that kills animals. Of course, like a human flu, the young and elderly dogs are most affected," Licitra said.

H3N2 does not affect humans or cats, according to Licitra, who is also the chief humane law enforcement officer for the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office.

Some of the symptoms include significant appetite loss or lethargy, severe nasal discharge and severe, heavy coughing.

What makes this flu different is its 21-day incubation period instead of the usual seven-day period, which forced the shelter to suspend adoptions and events. The staff estimates the period will end Jan. 2, which is when the shelter will resume normal operations.

The decision also meant no revenue needed to run the shelter was coming in at its busiest time of year.

"We have to do what's responsible for the community and for our shelter animals," Licitra said.

Shelter staff notified everyone who adopted an animal and their veterinary partners in the past few weeks about the situation to be aware of any signs of influenza to prevent the outbreak from spreading.

Only one recently adopted puppy showed signs of influenza. It was taken to a vet and was able to go home on Friday, according to Licitra.

Licitra said that because the virus can stay alive on clothing for 24-48 hours some personal pets of the staff were also infected with the flu.

"The shelter depends on the revenue we make from adoptions and from the medical center to help carry the donations," Licitra said.

The shelter also needs donations of towels and other care items, which can be dropped off at the shelter's thrift store.

Donations, which go toward the purchase of antibiotics, subcutaneous fluids, pill pockets and oxygen support, can be made from the shelter's Facebook page.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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