COLUMBUS (WCMH)–The Franklin County Dog Shelter has confirmed 52 dogs have been euthanized after at least one dog was found to have distemper last week.
The shelter has been closed since Friday but is scheduled to reopen today “for lost dog services only.” In a press release, the shelter said it considers all dogs to have been exposed to the virus.
The shelter says the 52 dogs who were euthanized were “showing severe clinical signs of respiratory disease combined with other physical, mental and emotional factors which would make an extended quarantine inhumane.” The press release did not mention if there are further plans for euthanization.
The Franklin County Board of Commissioners released a statement about the outbreak in support of the Franklin County Dog shelter, as well as the other experts working to control the outbreak.
Commissioners say in the release they are relying on those experts, as well as the Director of Animal Care and Control, to make decisions regarding animal welfare.
Commissioners also note in their statement that a comprehensive review of existing infectious disease protocols has been launched to ensure that Franklin County remains in line with the national best practices.
The American Veterinary Medical Association describes canine distemper as a “contagious and serious disease” affecting the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems of dogs. It passes most often through the air when an infected animal sneezes or coughs. The AVMA says it can also be spread through shared food and water bowls and other equipment. Infected dogs can be contagious for months, and mother dogs can even pass it to their puppies.
Dogs can be vaccinated against the virus. The most susceptible dogs are puppies under four months and dogs that have not been vaccinated.
The AVMA describes symptoms as such:
Initially, infected dogs will develop watery to pus-like discharge from their eyes. They then develop fever, nasal discharge, coughing, lethargy, reduced appetite, and vomiting. As the virus attacks the nervous system, infected dogs develop circling behavior, head tilt, muscle twitches, convulsions with jaw chewing movements and salivation (“chewing gum fits”), seizures, and partial or complete paralysis. The virus may also cause the footpads to thicken and harden, leading to its nickname “hard pad disease.”
The AVMA says there is no cure for the infection; it is often fatal, but not always.