What's Going Around: canine distemper - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

What's Going Around: canine distemper

A canine distemper outbreak has forced the indefinite suspension of dog adoptions at Calcasieu Parish Animal Services. (Source: KPLC) A canine distemper outbreak has forced the indefinite suspension of dog adoptions at Calcasieu Parish Animal Services. (Source: KPLC)
CALCASIEU PARISH, LA (KPLC) -

An outbreak of a highly contagious viral disease in dogs is forcing an indefinite suspension of dog adoptions at Calcasieu Parish Animal Services in Lake Charles.  It is also raising questions from dog owners about any health risks to their pets.

Facility veterinarian, Dr. Jamie Houston, says the staff first noticed the symptoms of canine distemper in a couple of puppies a little over a week ago.

"These particular puppies, they never had green ocular discharge, which is pretty typical for distemper virus," said Dr. Houston.  "They mainly just had the neurological, some of the GI signs, they also had intestinal parasites, so they were treated for them.  But when they developed the neurological signs, that was a red flag at that point."

Dr. Houston says a veterinary lab confirmed the samples from the suspected cases as canine distemper.  She says all dogs that may have been exposed to the diseased animals were immediately isolated to prevent further infection.

"We've gotten everybody that was exposed out of that area," she said.  "We've isolated them into exposed groups and those will be the ones that are monitored.  We've disinfected everything so that we could still have a safe place to bring in new dogs to the shelter."

During this uncertain period, people are being asked not to surrender dogs to this shelter, unless they can prove the pet is fully vaccinated.  It could be another couple of weeks to see if the virus has run its course.

"It's about two weeks between exposure up to they could develop signs.  We should know if they're going to develop signs in two weeks," said Dr. Houston.

The viral disease does not affect humans or domestic cats.  

Dr. Houston says all dogs are vaccinated when they arrive at Calcasieu Parish Animal Services.  They also give extra booster vaccinations, something dog owners need to make sure they stay on top of with their pets.

"If the vaccine history is questionable, call your vet," said Dr. Houston.  "We love to answer questions for you, we have the medical history, we can tell you what the animal's risks are."

Dog adoptions are set to resume at Calcasieu Parish Animal Services once no new cases are suspected.  

It is impossible to track the exact animal that led to the outbreak.  Dogs most often become infected through airborne exposure to the virus from an infected dog or wild animal.  In our area, raccoons can be the culprits in the wild.

For more information on canine distemper, click here.

To follow the parish's updates on the canine distemper outbreak and resuming adoptions, click here.

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