08/21/12 — Animal center reopens; no distemper

View Archive

Animal center reopens; no distemper

By From staff reports
Published in News on August 21, 2012 1:46 PM

The Wayne County Animal Adoption and Education Center has reopened after having been closed since Aug. 10 because of what appears to have been a false alarm concerning a potential case of distemper.

The shelter was closed as a precautionary measure, county officials said.

"A dog was adopted from the shelter in early July and the person who adopted the animal contacted us on Aug. 10, saying the animal might have distemper," said Vicki Falconer, Wayne County Animal Control director.

One dog at the shelter had symptoms consistent with distemper. No other dogs at the shelter exhibited signs of distemper.

"To err on the side of caution, we euthanized the dog," she said.

According to test results from the North Carolina state laboratory, the dog at the center did not have distemper.

The test was not conclusive as to what the disease actually was, said county spokesman Barbara Arntsen.

"The lab contacted the center to tell them that the dog did not have distemper," she said. "It had discharge and swollen sinus cavities. They are running a bacteria test which should be complete by the end of this week. The dog also had hookworms and tape worms."

Staff at the Animal Adoption and Education Center follow strict protocols to minimize potential outbreaks, including administering distemper vaccinations upon intake, Mrs. Falconer said. However, if an animal is already infected, but is not exhibiting symptoms, a vaccination is not effective.

No dogs were accepted from pet owners and no adoptions were made from the center while it was closed.

It was the second time this summer the center has closed.

It was closed for three weeks from late April until early May following an outbreak of the fatal and highly contagious viral disease. That outbreak that was traced to eight puppies that were brought into the shelter -- three died from distemper and five were euthanized.

Approximately 12 dogs were euthanized during the first week the shelter was closed because they exhibited symptoms of distemper.

Canine distemper attacks a dog's tonsils and lymph nodes and then the respiratory, urogenital, gastrointestinal and nervous systems. There is no known cure. Newborn puppies are especially susceptible to the disease.

It does not affect cats.

The disease spreads through aerosol droplets and through contact with infected bodily fluids including nasal and ocular secretions, feces and urine from six to 22 days after exposure. It can also be spread by food and water contaminated with these fluids.

The virus is destroyed in the environment by routine cleaning with disinfectants, detergents, or drying. It does not survive in the environment for more than a few hours at room temperature, but can survive for a few weeks in shady environments.

Distemper can be avoided if pet owners vaccinate their animals, but it remains a problem across the United States -- mainly in rural areas, she said.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, outbreaks of canine distemper are caused by the overpopulation of dogs and the irresponsibility of pet owners.