Altus Animal Shelter given all-clear to adopt out and accept dogs after recent presence of canine distemper.

By Katrina Goforth -

Altus officials said that the Altus Animal Shelter can now accept owner-surrendered dogs and adopt out shelter dogs after a three-week hiatus due to an outbreak of distemper.

Though there’s no way of knowing where the virus originated, workers at the Altus Animal Shelter have been working over the last two to three weeks to keep the virus contained and from infecting other animals at the shelter, according to Assistant City Manager Matt Wojinowski.

Canine distemper is a contagious and serious viral disease that has no known cure. While the disease can be treated to prevent dehydration and secondary infections, dogs with poor immune systems usually succumb to the disease about five weeks after infection.

It affects dogs and certain wildlife, such as raccoons, wolves, foxes and skunks. Ferrets are known to be carriers of canine distemper. Young puppies who have not yet been vaccinated and non-immunized older dogs are in more danger of contracting the virus, but cats are in no danger of contracting canine distemper.

Because the virus is airborne, dogs can be directly or indirectly infected. For this reason, the Altus Animal Shelter did not accept owner-surrendered dogs or allow dogs to be adopted for three weeks at the recommendation of a local veterinarian until the facility was given the all-clear on Friday.

Major symptoms of distemper include:a high fever around 103.5 degrees Fahrenheit;

• reddened eyes;

• watery discharge from the nose and eyes; and

• lethargy.

Dogs with distemper may become anorexic and exhibit a persistent cough, begin vomiting and experience diarrhea. As the disease progresses, the virus attacks the dog’s nervous system, causing fits, seizures, paralysis and hysteria. Canine distemper is also known as hard pad disease because it can cause the pads of the animal’s feet to become enlarged and abnormally thick.

The Altus Animal Shelter took precautions to keep the disease from spreading, including euthanizing infected dogs who succumbed to the effects of their compromised immune systems, Wojinowski said.

Dogs that are improperly vaccinated are susceptible to distemper, as well as those who have come in contact with an infected animal. Dogs with bacterial infections in the respiratory or gastrointestinal system have a higher risk of contracting the disease.

By completing a vaccination schedule with a veterinarian, canine distemper can be prevented. Puppies should receive the distemper shot at six to eight weeks old, but should be kept away from potentially infected animals or areas until the rounds of the vaccine are finished at four or five months.

A routine cleaning or disinfecting of your dog’s home is also a good step toward preventing the disease — another step the Altus Animal Shelter took to prevent the disease’s spread.

Dogs who do recover from canine distemper might continue to have seizures and other disorders of the central nervous system. Some dogs may also experience permanent nerve or brain damage that may not present until years later.

Plans to offer dogs for adoption at the Howl-O-Ween Barkathon were cancelled due to the distemper outbreak.

Reach Katrina Goforth at 580-482-1221, ext. 2077.

By Katrina Goforth

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