Shelter reopens after distemper outbreak

By: By Natalie Davis -
File photo The Anson County Animal Shelter reopened Monday following an outbreak of distemper. -

The Anson County Animal Shelter reopened April 30 following a recent outbreak of Canine distemper.

Due to the shelter being an open intake facility for the county, a dog was brought in from the Lilesville Area, and transmitted distemper at the shelter.

“We have worked with infectious disease experts in the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine to determine the infection status of each dog through diagnostic testing,” said Maureen Lett, shelter director.

Due to the outbreak, 17 dogs had to be euthanized to prevent the spread and further contamination of animals at the shelter. However, 37 dogs were saved through testing, according to Lett.

“This process was extremely costly and time consuming, but thankfully with the help of Maddie’s Shelter Program, which covered the almost-$7,000 cost, these lives were spared,” she said.

All remaining dogs have tested negative and have high enough titers against distemper, she added. They are now up for adoption or are needing rescue placement.

“Moving forward, the Anson County shelter will be vaccinating all dogs against distemper the day they enter the shelter,” Lett said.

In addition, Lett said that all dogs still in the shelter two weeks later will get a booster vaccine. These vaccine practices are in accordance with industry guidelines.

Lett said that studies have shown that more than 50 percent of dogs that enter animal control shelters do not have immunity to canine distemper virus, indicating the need to vaccinate every dog upon admission.

“However, it takes one to two weeks for the dogs to respond to the vaccination by producing protective amounts of antibodies,” Lett said. “Distemper cannot be reliably diagnosed by symptoms only, and many infected dogs may not have any signs at all.”

CDV is highly contagious and easily transmittable between dogs. The virus will live for a few hours in the environment and is killed by most disinfectants. Unfortunately, CDV’s incubation period can last up to five weeks.

“Dogs infected with CDV can develop neurological signs up to three months after they were infected. Infected animals will also shed the virus through feces, urine, and respiratory droplets for two to three months,” Lett said.

There is no cure for CDV. Supportive care (fluid therapy, nutritional support, antibiotics, nebulization) can be provided but the prognosis is guarded, according to Lett.

The vaccination for CDV is very effective, she said. Adult dogs who have been fully vaccinated before exposure are extremely unlikely to contract CDV. Vaccinating dogs upon admission may help prevent future outbreaks, but it is not a guarantee.

“Vaccination in the community is the key to prevention,” Lett said. “It is extremely important to keep animals current, not only on distemper, rabies as well.”

Anyone with questions or concerns is encouraged to call the Anson County Animal Shelter at 704-994-2738.

File photo The Anson County Animal Shelter reopened Monday following an outbreak of distemper. photo The Anson County Animal Shelter reopened Monday following an outbreak of distemper.

By Natalie Davis