Distemper Outbreak Claims 25 Dogs at Milwaukee Shelter




canine distemperThe deadly canine distemper virus has been confirmed at the Wisconsin Humane Society (WHS) in Milwaukee, where 25 dogs have died.

While many shelters might euthanize dogs after such an outbreak, Anne Reed, executive director of the WHS, told the Journal Sentinel that the shelter is evaluating each dog individually. She said some of the 70 dogs remaining at the shelter are showing signs of distemper.

Initially, Reed said that adoptions could be halted for as long as six weeks, the incubation period for distemper. But according to a statement released by the shelter on Tuesday, dogs that are found to be clear of the virus will be made available for adoption on a weekly basis.

“We have learned that many shelters are forced to ‘depopulate,’ euthanizing either all their dogs or any dog showing signs of illness, as soon as distemper is diagnosed,” the shelter stated. “Our leadership team and all our staff reject this approach and have chosen instead to save as many of our dogs as we can, even though we know it will interrupt our regular operations for several weeks.”

Reed told the Journal Sentinel that the source of the outbreak may never be known. Distemper is usually fatal, but easy to prevent with a vaccination that provides lifetime immunity.

“Fifty percent of all dogs in the U.S. never get vaccinated,” Reed said. “Distemper doesn’t occur in pets that have been cared for.”

Canine distemper is closely related to measles in humans. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s ”Canine Distemper” brochure, “Puppies and dogs usually become infected through airborne exposure to the virus contained in respiratory secretions of an infected dog or wild animal.”

The first symptom of distemper is an eye discharge. Other early signs include coughing, vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy. If the disease spreads to a dog’s brain, it is usually fatal.

While adoptions are on hold at the Milwaukee shelter, Angela Speed, director of community relations for Wisconsin and Ozaukee County Humane Societies, told the Port Washington-Saukville Patch that dogs at the shelter’s Ozaukee Campus in Saukville, Wis., are available now for furever homes.

“Fortunately, no dogs have tested positive at the Ozaukee Campus and operations are running normally there,” Speed said. “We are not worried about the virus spreading to the Ozaukee Campus or anywhere else. We have it contained and under control at the Milwaukee shelter.”

PHOTO: Cú Faoil

Laura Goldman

Laura Goldman is senior social media writer for i Love Dogs, Inc. She does love dogs. And elephants and turtles. Along with writing about the loves of her life, Laura likes to play with her two pound pups and tell anyone who'll listen just how awesome Pit Bulls are.

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