Altus Animal Shelter finds case of distemper, temporarily closed

Altus Animal Shelter finds case of distemper, temporarily closed

ALTUS, OK (KSWO) - The Altus Animal Shelter is shut down temporarily after one of the dogs there was found to have a deadly disease called distemper.

Officials say the dog that had the disease, unfortunately, had to be euthanized. Distemper is a virus that only affects canines and is easily transferred through a variety of ways, like sneezing and coughing. Right now, no animals are being adopted out of the animal shelter. They are also not accepting any owner surrendered dogs, only strays.

Altus City officials tell us veterinarians are monitoring the health of the other dogs in the shelter, but do not believe any of them have the disease. They hope to have the shelter back open by Monday.

Dr. Jennifer Webb at Lawton Veterinary Hospital says distemper used to be very prevalent among canines, but thanks to vaccinations, it's become much less common, outside of animal shelters and strays. But, Webb said the disease is devastating to those animals that catch it.

"It is a very serious disease. Once it gets into the central nervous system, it is nine times out of 10 fatal. Even with correct treatment, the mortality rate is up towards 50 percent," Dr. Webb said.

Dr. Webb said symptoms of the disease are similar to kennel cough, red eyes, nasal discharge, sneezing and coughing. While there are vaccinations to help prevent the disease, right now there's not a sure-fire way to cure it.

"Because it is a virus, the biggest thing is supportive care, keeping the pet hydrated, keeping secondary bacterial infections under control, and controlling the symptoms is the best we can do while their body takes care of the virus," Webb said.

Webb said distemper is spread through the air, meaning it can spread quickly in areas like animal shelters where there are lots of dogs near each other.

"It can come from an infected dog's sneezing, coughing, eye discharge, nasal discharge, saliva. It can also be spread in the urine and the feces. It can be spread almost any number of ways," Webb said.

Webb says in a situation like the one in Altus, the best way to handle it would be to immediately isolate the dogs that are affected. Then all cages, leashes, bowls or anything else the dogs could have touched would need to be sanitized.

Altus City officials declined to do an on-camera interview for this story.

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