AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - Augusta Animal Services is temporarily suspending all dog adoption and intakes after a puppy at the shelter tested positive for canine distemper.
"While this is an extremely rare incident, we can't be too careful when dealing with a virus as contagious as canine distemper," said Tara Poppy, department veterinarian. "Aside from the puppy that tested positive for the virus, we have a few other suspicious cases, so we are erring on the side of caution by suspending all dog adoptions pending test results."
Poppy will perform extensive testing to determine if any other dogs in the shelter have contracted the virus. Augusta Animal Services is also working with the Georgia Department of Agriculture, the University of Wisconsin and national experts in the field.
While Augusta Animal Services doesn't expect the illness to affect recently adopted dogs, they are advising people to watch for signs of the virus, including runny nose, watery eyes, fever and lethargy, or neurological symptoms like twitching. Pet owners are asked to contact their vet and Augusta Animal Services if their dog does display those signs.
Cat adoptions at the shelter will remain unaffected because the virus is not transmissible to cats. It is also not transmissible to humans.
Canine distemper is a very serious and often fatal viral illness that affects dogs and other members of the Canidae family. The illness can strike a dog at any age, but young, unvaccinated dogs and puppies are most susceptible to it. The virus is found in bodily secretions and spread via inhalation.Once inhaled, the virus can move to the lymph nodes and then to the blood, spreading to the respiratory, gastrointestinal, urogenital and central nervous systems.
Canine distemper can be easily prevented. Puppies usually receive their first vaccination against the distemper virus at the age of about 6 weeks. The second vaccination is typically given a month later, or as recommended by a veterinarian. The canine distemper vaccine is recognized as one of the most effective vaccines and can offer protection within hours.
Augusta Animal Services vaccinates shelter puppies upon intake and all adoptable dogs, and urges pet owners to make sure their animals are up-to-date on vaccinations.