WAHS confirms canine distemper outbreak

One of the many dogs that have been temporarily housed at the animal shelter.

Miner File Photo

One of the many dogs that have been temporarily housed at the animal shelter.

KINGMAN - Western Arizona Humane Society shelter employees noticed several dogs that had recently come in as strays showing signs of illness on Aug. 15. The dogs did not respond to normal medical treatment, so a local vet was brought in, as well as the shelter's own vet and testing was done.

The test confirmed a case of canine distemper. As of Friday, the shelter had euthanized 15 dogs that presented similar symptoms.

Canine distemper is a viral respiratory disease that can progress and cause brain damage. Fortunately, many pets infected with distemper do not become seriously ill, but when they do become ill about half will die.

Puppies and older dogs with weak immune systems usually die from distemper. The distemper virus is similar to the human measles virus. The virus is successful because it suppresses the immune system and actually multiplies within the immune system as it spreads throughout the body.

Distemper causes respiratory and gastrointestinal signs and can initially be confused with parvo disease. Puppies and dogs most often become infected through airborne exposure (sneezing or coughing) to the virus from an infected dog or wild animal. The virus can also be transmitted by shared food and water bowls and equipment. Infected dogs can have the virus for months, and mother dogs can pass the virus through the placenta to their puppies. It can sometimes take as much as 3 weeks for symptoms to appear.

Dogs are held in the back of the shelter for many reasons. There is an intake area where animal control is allowed to drop off dogs at any time. Upon intake, all dogs are vaccinated for CDV. Puppies are further boostered every two weeks until they are 16–20 weeks old. Usually puppies leave before the two-week period, which means they do not receive a booster. Adult dogs get vaccinated on intake and will continue to be boostered every two weeks during their stay following shelter protocols. Dogs are held for 72 hours after intake, as part of the legal hold period. These dogs are also receiving DAPPV vaccines as well as Bordetella.

The following protocols will be strictly enforced at the WAHS-Mohave County shelter.

• All animals coming in from the public under 6 months old will be held in the customer’s car in front of our facility for testing purposes and then intake paperwork is completed.

• Any person visiting kennels will be required to listen to a safety briefing by their staff escort and will be provided appropriate protective wear and booties to control the spread of disease.

• No dog-to-dog meet and greets will be conducted without customers' proof of current vaccinations for their dog.

• Anyone not abiding by these procedures will be asked to leave.

The staff at WAHS-Mohave County appreciates the community’s understanding and support while this situation is being resolved.

Please remember the only way to prevent such an outbreak is to vaccinate.

- Information provided by Western Arizona Humane Society