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County Animal Shelter Warns About Distemper

County urges pet owners to vaccinate their pets

Post Date:02/03/2020 3:45 PM

The Guilford County Animal Shelter is issuing a warning to pet owners to watch out for signs of distemper in their pets.

On January 29, the County Shelter confirmed that during routine testing, a stray dog picked up from the Greensboro area tested positive for distemper.  The dog was already being housed in isolation and shelter staff took immediate quarantine actions in accordance with protocols. Staff have activated additional proactive measures, such as isolation of 9 other animals who were in exposure ranges, ensuring vaccinations are in place for all animals housed at the shelter, cleaning, and disinfecting to keep the contagious disease from spreading. At this time no other animals have tested positive. Shelter staff will continue the quarantine and cleaning protocols through the end of February.

Distemper is a highly-contagious, often fatal virus that is spread among dogs via body excretions and inhalation. The disease develops in the lymph nodes before entering the blood stream and cell lining of the respiratory, urogenital, gastrointestinal and central nervous system.

Symptoms include a thick discharge in nose and eyes, diarrhea, fever, coughing, loss of appetite, twitching and neurological signs. Dogs of any age are most susceptible. Dogs may be infected and spreading the virus without exhibiting any symptoms. The incubation of distemper once a pet is exposed is typically within one to six weeks.

Signs of distemper can appear as minor canine upper respiratory infections and can vary from dog to dog, making a diagnosis very complicated. However, if symptoms are presented together, a diagnosis of distemper is more likely. Although distemper may be manageable in a few cases, currently there is no known cure and often requires euthanasia.

Shelter Veterinarian, Dr. Noureddine stated that, “Distemper is very preventable, since the vaccine is highly effective. It is critical for pet owners to vaccinate their pets early and regularly, beginning with booster shots for puppies every two to four weeks from six to 20 weeks of age, then annually based on recommendations by their own vet.”

“We are taking this very seriously”, stated Lisa Lee, Community Engagement Manager.  “In order to adequately manage the situation, we have temporarily reduced operational space for intake to facilitate cleaning and isolation requirements.  We are working closely with our Rescue and Foster partners who are willing to help quarantine the exposed animals outside of the shelter. To date, we have had no additional animals test positive for distemper, we are optimistically hopeful that we can prevent the spread of distemper in our shelter as it was caught early through our routine surveillance and testing.  It is vital that our community understand the importance of regular vaccinations for their pets. As you can see, one unvaccinated stray can have a devastating impact on a shelter if not caught early.”