. - The Pima County Animal Care Center is taking precautions after seeing a higher than normal number of dogs carrying the pneumovirus.
It's an upper respiratory infection that can lead to pneumonia and be fatal to dogs if left untreated.
The county says it has reached a "critical percentage of new infections" so it is taking steps to keep the infection from spreading.
"It's common in shelters, especially in a confined environment like we have here, said Kristen Auerbach, the PACC Director.
Symptoms include a runny nose or a crusty nose, lethargy and a cough. It will generally go away on its own but sometimes quickly becomes pneumonia which can be very serious.
Normally, about 20 dogs would be showing symptoms at any given time at the shelter but right now about 60 dogs have been isolated or are receiving treatment.
"We're using an abundance of precaution," Auerbach said. "We're being really careful because we don't want this to turn into something more serious."
Volunteers came in after hours to spend the night cleaning the huge tent set up by PACC three years ago to handle overflow. It was cleaned and disinfected twice.
New dogs brought to the shelter will be housed in the tent, to keep them away from rest of the population, to help keep the virus from spreading.
The shelter is following the advice of an internationally known expert on virus issues in shelters.
PACC has also planned a large adoption event this weekend, due to the over abundance of dogs, especially puppies and older dogs.
It's hoped people will foster some of the sick dogs until they are well enough to be adopted. It also encourages rescue groups to take some of the dogs to lower the population which will make it easier to head off the rate of infection.
There are about 300 dogs which are up for adoption this weekend.
PACC also says people who adopt a dog and later discover it may be showing symptoms get a free vet visit or can bring the dog back to the shelter for treatment.
"We ask people to think of it as a common cold," Auerbach said. "A common cold at home is not so serious but a common cold in a shelter environment where we have a condensed population breathing the same air, can get very serious."
Many of the issues facing the center now will be eliminated in the next three months, when they move into a new animal care center approved by voters.
The pneumovirus cannot be spread to humans but human contact can spread it from dog to dog.
Hand washing is recommended for anyone who may have played with or touched a dog thought to be infected.