Deadly Virus Locks Down Animal Shelter

Oct 18, 2011

The Franklin County Humane Society is under a mandatory quarantine after a few puppies in the shelter tested positive for canine parvovirus, says one of its officials. The shelter can’t accept or release animals for adoption for at least five days. Four puppies were euthanized between Saturday and Monday after showing signs of the deadly disease, said Trudi Johnson, vice president for the humane society.

Three of the puppies were part of a litter; the fourth was one brought in by the city on Monday from Holmes Street.

Johnson said it’s always hard to put down a dog but praised the staff for acting quickly to prevent the spread of the disease. 
“We hate it, but it could turn into a real mess if we’re not proactive,” Johnson said.

Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious disease that affects mainly young puppies and elder dogs. It spreads through both direct and indirect contact with feces. The virus also lives in the soil.

The virus affects cells in the heart and the gastrointestinal tract, so infected dogs have problems such as diarrhea, vomiting and difficulty breathing.

The unfortunate thing about dogs with the parvovirus is that the disease is “100 percent preventable” through a series of vaccinations, says Dr. Jonathan Mangin of the Frankfort Veterinary Clinic.

But Mangin said he still sees cases of the virus because the vaccination isn’t always given correctly. Instead of taking their dogs to the vet, Mangin said some people are vaccinating them through an online order.

Vaccinations are kept in a cool environment, and Mangin said they lose their potency within 30 seconds of being taken out of a refrigerator. Mangin said it’s impossible to know how the vaccine has been handled, and it may not work by the time a person receives it.

That’s why Mangin said people need to get their pets vaccinated by a veterinarian because the vaccines are kept cool until it’s time to use them.

Mangin also discouraged people from getting their pets vaccinated at humane societies. Since so many different pets are brought in, shelters are exposed to a variety of germs and diseases, which he said is how the parvovirus was likely discovered in the first place.

“At a shelter, you’re going to run into that from time to time,” Mangin said. “That’s some of the difficulty with that job.”

Johnson said shelter workers scrubbed the shelter with bleach to kill the disease. She said the infection appeared to be isolated, but if people believe their pets were infected, they should take them to a vet. The most common symptom is a bloody stool with a strong odor, said Johnson.

She also encouraged those with pets near Holmes Street to make sure their pet’s vaccinations are fully updated.

Mangin said the disease is treatable but at a cost to the dogs.

“It’s a horrible suffering disease, whether they make it or not,” Mangin said.