45 dogs euthanized at Fort Worth shelter because of distemper outbreak

Posted Friday, Oct. 12, 2012  comments  Print Reprints

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An outbreak of distemper at the Fort Worth Animal Care and Control Center forced officials to quarantine and euthanize 45 sick dogs this week, a city official said.

Veterinarians recognized the outbreak earlier this week and moved infected dogs into an isolation ward, said Diane Covey, a spokeswoman for the Fort Worth Code Compliance Department. On Thursday, the decision was made to euthanize the sick dogs to prevent the spread of the disease.

The shelter has not had to euthanize any more dogs as of Friday morning, she said.

Distemper is an airborne viral disease that is highly contagious, particularly in a shelter setting.

"A shelter is a very contained environment and because (distemper) is airborne it can travel at the speed of light," she said. "The dogs get extremely sick and they suffer. The decision to euthanize was made to alleviate their suffering and for the protection of other dogs in the shelter."

Distemper affects a dog's respiratory, gastrointestinal, respiratory, central nervous systems and the conjunctival membranes of the eye, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Puppies and adolescent dogs that have not been vaccinated are most vulnerable.

Health tests are frequently performed at the Fort Worth shelter because often dogs that arrive there are sick, she said. Because veterinarians identified the outbreak quickly, they prevented it from becoming worse, she said.

However, no one at the shelter, which can hold 300 dogs, can recall a similar distemper outbreak, she said.

Distemper is not a threat to humans or cats, Covey said. People interested in adopting dogs from the shelter should not be dissuaded by the outbreak.

"We have many, many healthy dogs here at the shelter," she said.

Alex Branch, 817-390-7689

Twitter: @albranch1

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