Animal Shelter Encourages Vaccinations Following Increase in Shelter Respiratory Cases

The Boone County Animal Shelter is advising dog owners to vaccinate their pets for distemper. The recommendation comes after the shelter began seeing an increase in the number of respiratory disease cases that began last week. Four samples were sent for testing and two of those samples were positive for canine distemper.

“While illness in an animal shelter is not uncommon, we saw several dogs exhibiting cough, running nose, and fever at the same time”, states Beckey Reiter, Director of Boone County Animal Care and Control. “We were dealing with something airborne so we immediately isolated that section of the shelter, notified local veterinarians and shelter patrons and began treating the symptoms while awaiting the test results”.

The results revealed that this particular strain of distemper is the “wild type”, meaning the virus originated from foxes, raccoons, or skunks. “Our animal control officers have seen an increase in sick raccoon this year”, said Reiter. “Fifty five raccoons have been euthanized in the last 6 months and most of them were suspected to have distemper.”

The animal shelter is urging dog owners to contact their veterinarian to make sure their dogs are current on vaccines. Distemper is a highly contagious virus. Unvaccinated dogs, young, old, and dogs with suppressed immune systems are most susceptible. “People and their pets should avoid contact with wildlife to reduce risk”, Reiter said.

Eighteen shelter dogs have presented with symptoms at various levels of severity. Six have recovered quickly while twelve are still under treatment but showing signs of improvement. “Four cases were severe and went into pneumonia,” Reiter states, “but with the quality of care provided by our staff and veterinarians, we haven’t lost a single dog.”

The shelter has temporarily suspended intake and adoptions. The shelter’s medical team is working closely with Dr. Gerryl Hall, D.V.M. who is the leading veterinarian for Merck Animal Health and a top expert in animal sheltering medicine.

“We want to thank our community and volunteers for their support during this difficult time”, states Reiter.