GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — The Georgetown Animal Shelter has seen an rise in dogs entering the shelter with the distemper virus, according to a news release from the City of Georgetown.
The shelter is asking for help getting healthy dogs out of the shelter and into foster or adoptive homes, in order to separate them from sick dogs.
The release said the shelter confirmed one case of distemper and six presumptive cases. The initial dog came into the shelter July 31 and first showed symptoms on August 17. It tested positive for the virus on Aug. 22.
“We desperately need the community’s help to foster or adopt our current, healthy dogs, so we can limit the spread of this devastating disease,” said Georgetown Animal Services manager April Haughey in the release. “We are taking every step we can to clean and sanitize the shelter and isolate potentially infected dogs, but with how this virus spreads and with the shelter being over capacity, we don’t have other options.”
The shelter said that it has started additional disease control measures to mitigate the spread of the virus. However, the city said that since the shelter consistently operates above capacity, creating additional space for isolation has become increasingly difficult.
In order to create isolation space, the shelter said it needs to place 15 healthy dogs in foster or adoptive homes as soon as possible.
Emergency fosters for healthy dogs should be limited to homes that either have no dogs or homes where all dogs are fully vaccinated. Interested fosters can contact the shelter for an appointment at (512) 930-3592 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to fostering and/or adopting dogs currently at the shelter, the city said the public can help by:
- Limiting casual visits. The shelter has also suspended meet and greets until further notice.
- Holding strays. Georgetown fire stations can scan strays to check if they have a microchip.
- Making sure all pets are fully vaccinated. Adult dogs require vaccinations for distemper every three years.
At this time, the animal shelter is taking in dogs for emergencies only and only as kennels remain available, according to the city. The city said the shelter will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates at pets.georgetown.org.
Distemper cases in Austin
On Monday, the Austin Animal Center (AAC) said it continues to see increases in distemper, which is a deadly disease affecting unvaccinated dogs, according to a news release from the City of Austin. AAC received 39 positive results from 94 dogs tested.
“As expected, the dogs testing positive are generally under a year old and have only been in the shelter for a few weeks, meaning they didn’t have time to build up appropriate vaccination immunity before being exposed,” said AAC head veterinarian Dr. Debbie Elliott. “We are seeing a range of symptoms, from dogs that aren’t showing any signs to dogs developing seizures. We have been working with experts at the University of Wisconsin Shelter Medicine Program as well as our partners at Austin Pets Alive! to provide treatment and slow the spread of disease through the shelter.”
Earlier this month, AAC recently asked for help to move 60 healthy dogs out of the shelter and into foster or adoptive homes due to the rise in distemper cases, according to the city.
How does distemper spread?
Canine distemper affects domestic dogs and ferrets and can infect wildlife — including raccoons, coyotes, foxes, and skunks, according to AAC.
The disease is caused by canine distemper virus (CDV). The virus is spread through close contact with infected animals, most commonly from respiratory droplets and less commonly from urine or feces. The virus does not survive well in the environment, but there is still potential risk of spread via contaminated items like bowls and toys, the release said.
“Prevention through vaccination is hands down the most effective tool our community has,” Elliott said. “It is vital that dog owners make sure their dogs are completely vaccinated.”