AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Animal Center (AAC) 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’s 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.”
AAC continues to seek fosters and adopters for healthy, vaccinated dogs at the shelter. All adoption fees are waived and staff is available to process walk-in fosters from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, according to AAC.
“Getting healthy dogs out allows us to create space to isolate sick animals and protect incoming vulnerable dogs,” Elliott said.
On Saturday, AAC will participate with dozens of volunteers for Clear the Shelters, which is a national adoption promotion, the release said. Volunteers will be available from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. to help families find a new pet, according to AAC.
To learn more about canine distemper, visit the city website.