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Hundreds of dogs die at animal shelter after viral disease outbreak

Canine distemper

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(NaturalNews) A Humane Society animal shelter in a New Braunfels, Texas, had to euthanize approximately 75 percent of its animals due to a distemper outbreak in the shelter. Distemper is highly contagious and very little if anything can be done about it, although maybe half of them, usually older dogs, do survive.

The problem is that animal shelters are places where many are picking up a pet to adopt, and taking home a distempered animal will definitely create problems for other animals, but it doesn't produce symptoms in humans.

Apparently, the source of this outbreak was a dog brought in by an owner who refused to have his distempered dog put down, then brought the animal to the shelter as a stray that he couldn't care for.

Although the virus is slightly different, there is also a feline version of distemper. Evidently because of this one fraudulent attempt to pass on a diseased dog without liability, hundreds of dogs and cats were put to death.

At the time of this writing, shelter officials had only 28 dogs and 16 cats left alive out of the daily average of 250 animals that had been taken in by the shelter. They are trying to quarantine them from exposure while they clean up the facility to eliminate any possible future infestations.

About the viral infection called distemper

Viral canine distemper is the most common type that is passed on through saliva, respiratory secretions, urine and other bodily excretions. The most susceptible canines are puppies who had already begun the weening process, thus depriving them of the protective immunity from the mothers' milk colostrum.

Infected puppies have the highest rate of mortality. Older dogs can sometimes survive, and from then on they are permanently immune. Whether they can survive or not depends a lot on their genetic heritage. Veterinarian Ron Hines, DVM, PhD, recommends vaccinating older puppies against distemper as the initial immunity conferred by mother's milk is likely to wane shortly after weening.

Wild animals can also carry the disease, even racoons, skunks, weasels and ferrets can be infected. Distemper usually affects the nerves, spinal cord, brain and immune system. Neurological problems may become noticeable from poor movement coordination or behavioral issues that resemble rabies. Loss of appetite and high fever follow.

According to Hines, throughout the first half of the 20th century, canine distemper was the most prominent cause of dog death. Then, during the 1940s, vaccines were developed and improved to the point that its use may be warranted in your animal.

No-kill animal shelters' plight with overcrowded conditions

An estimated 6 to 8 million animals are brought to shelters annually, and almost half of them have to be euthanized. It was worse during the 1970s, when up to 20 million strays and pets brought in were "put to sleep." The major reasons for this decline are shelters' insistence on having adopted pets spayed or neutered, more responsible pet ownership and no-kill shelters.

But no-kill shelters are controversial. There are some that actually create very liveable environments for dogs or cats and are properly staffed. This author's wife found one in Los Angeles that resembled a spacious fenced-in open-area zoo for the remaining cat that we couldn't take upon leaving Los Angeles permanently. He was an outdoor cat who roamed occasionally for a couple of days at a time, and he took to the place nicely.

But many are the old-fashioned enclosed shelters that simply create more cages and confine animals that are poorly treated. Many consider this institutional, extended animal cruelty. They endorse painlessly euthanizing animals that have overextended their stay without adoption as more humane than keeping them alive in overcrowded conditions without proper care.

If you ever have to leave a pet behind, take care to examine all options. The first option should be to find another person as the new guardian of your former pet.








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