DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – After confirming 15 cases of canine distemper virus, Dallas Animal Services (DAS) is restricting dog admission to emergencies.
Inquiries about handover from non-distressed owners will be linked to the pet support hotline for other relocation options, officials said. Residents can call the hotline on 311.
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Since the case confirmations, DAS employees have contacted Dr. Cynda Crawford, an expert on upper respiratory diseases in dogs, is advising and “currently working to implement her recommendations”.
Officials said DAS has begun quarantining all dogs showing possible symptoms, introducing more comprehensive cleaning protocols, increasing the use of personal protective equipment, and expanding education on distemper and other common canine diseases.
“The public needs to understand that this is not a dirty shelter problem,” said Crawford. “Distemper can enter shelters like Dallas Animal Services that follow health care best practices, and they need the support and understanding of the community to help them resolve the situation.”
Canine distemper virus is a contagious viral infection that can cause respiratory, genitourinary, gastrointestinal, eye, and central nervous system symptoms in unvaccinated or immunocompromised dogs. Officials said distemper can be fatal and those who survive could have permanent neurological effects.
“The health of the animals in our shelter and in North Texas is a top priority for DAS,” said MeLissa Webber, DAS interim director. “While the suspected number of distemper cases in DAS is relatively low – it only accounts for 2% of our dog population – we take this threat very seriously.”
Officials said DAS is home to nearly 350 adoptable dogs who have shown no signs of illness and are in dire need of a home.
“We want to be transparent, but we also don’t want to scare potential adoptive parents and sponsors,” said Webber. “We’re nearing capacity and we desperately need animal lovers to help us ensure that our healthy dogs continue to get the positive results they deserve.”
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It can take up to 20 days after exposure for an animal to develop symptoms; In the meantime, they can begin shedding the virus and infect other animals long before symptoms appear.
“This has been an exceptionally bad year for distemper in Texas; So far, our program has worked with seven shelters in Texas, ”said Crawford. “Dallas Animal Services has the right leadership and resources, and as one of the leading animal shelters in the state, I have confidence that they can handle the cases in their shelter while maximizing life savings.”
Officials said if you recently adopted a dog from DAS that shows signs of upper respiratory disease, please isolate it from other dogs and call your veterinarian immediately.
“In the case of distemper, prevention is crucial, which is why DAS vaccinates every dog against distemper within minutes of arriving at the shelter,” says Michael Burk, medical director at DAS. “Once your dog has his basic vaccination up to date, he should be given high levels of protection from distemper exposure. If you are not sure about your dog’s vaccination status, it is important that you contact your veterinarian. “
There are a variety of combination vaccine formulas that provide protection against distemper, the most common of which are DHPP, DHLPP, and DAPPv. If your dog is not up to date with the latest vaccinations, DAS recommends making an appointment with your veterinarian or a low-cost community clinic.
“It’s critical that our community come out to help; This is the only way we can effectively address this issue and continue to save lives, ”said Webber. “If you have no dogs, or just healthy, fully vaccinated dogs, we encourage you to come to DAS and sign up to groom or adopt one of the hundreds of amazing dogs in our general population today.”
DAS said it will continue to offer toll-free adoptions for all animals in its care this weekend; However, dogs with symptoms that could indicate distemper are not available for adoption.
Potential adopters can also use DAS’s home-to-home program to adopt dogs directly from owners who can no longer care for them.
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Information on available pets can be found here and pets available through DAS Home-to-Home program are listed here.