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Distemper outbreak shuts down Waco regional animal shelter

The shelter has temporarily stopped taking in new animals while the current animals are treated.

WACO, Texas — The City of Waco will be closing its regional animal shelter for two weeks due to an outbreak of Distemper among the shelter's dogs.

The shelter, located at 2032 Circle Road in Waco, has stopped taking in new animals while the dogs currently in the shelter are being treated. The animals are being cared for by Shelter Veterinarian Dr. Michael Vallon.

The shelter has stated that dogs in the shelter have recently been showing signs of respiratory infection. Two of the dogs were reportedly suspected to have neurological symptoms that showed signs of Distemper. 

According to the shelter, both of the dogs were isolated under the care of Dr. Vallon, and were tested for the virus. Both dogs reportedly tested positive for Distemper, and the shelter was shut down to prevent the disease from spreading.

The shelter stated that they currently house 196 dogs and 13 cats. They have said that no cats are currently showing signs of infection. There is no word on whether or not other dogs have tested positive.

Distemper is an infectious virus among pets that attacks multiple systems of the body and can cause severe illness. It is highly contagious and can be difficult to treat, but can often be prevented through vaccinations.

While there is no complete cure, treatment can consist of supportive care, prevention of secondary infections, control of symptoms and isolation from other dogs.

“Distemper can be deadly," said Dr. Vallon, "Closing intake to the shelter is essential in preventing the further spread of the virus. Distemper has an asymptomatic incubation period lasting anywhere from one to four weeks. It can also show itself several weeks after symptoms have subsided, meaning that dogs at the shelter who have not shown symptoms or could possibly never show symptoms or have already cleared up from previous symptoms could still infect incoming dogs. This only prolongs the cycle of the virus, adding additional cycles of infection and recovery.”

The Humane Society of Central Texas has agreed with the city's decision to close the shelter in order to protect the dogs. Board President Patricia Meadows has promised that the organization will work with the shelter to maintain optimal conditions for the animals to recover.

For questions about the closure, contact Animal Shelter Director Trey Buzbee at 254-750-7083, or through email at jbuzbee@wacotx.gov.

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