Animal News

SPCA of Texas shuts down some services due to outbreak of distemper

SPCA of Texas shuts down some services due to outbreak of distemper

iWalk For Animals
Distemper is a highly contagious virus and can be fatal. Photo courtesy of SPCA

Animal organization the SPCA of Texas is temporarily shutting down, due to an outbreak of distemper. According to a release, all facilities are closed to the public for at least two weeks.

The closure comes after the agency documented at least two dogs infected with the canine distemper virus in its care.

The agency will stop taking in animals and stop doing adoptions during a quarantine period of at least two weeks at all locations.

The SPCA is one of many shelters in North Texas that has faced distemper outbreaks.

As a part of this plan, the following SPCA of Texas facilities will be closed to adopters, volunteers and community members until at least June 22, 2022:

  • Jan Rees-Jones Animal Care Center
  • Myron K. Martin Spay/Neuter and Veterinary Care Clinic
  • Russell E. Dealey Animal Rescue Center
  • Ellis County Animal Care Center

The SPCA of Texas will still continue some programs and services, including adoptions of cats and kittens at local PetSmart stores, as will adoptions of equine and livestock at the SPCA of Texas' Equine Center in McKinney.

Some foster dogs will be available for adoption by appointment.

Additionally, the SPCA of Texas' Mary Spencer Spay/Neuter and Veterinary Care Clinic will remain open to the public.

Food and supply pick-ups for the Russell H. Perry Pet Resource Center will continue, and clients will be met at their cars.

The Ellis County Animal Care Center will quarantine bite case animals.

Urgent Animal Cruelty Investigations intake will also continue.

"The SPCA of Texas respectfully asks for the public's patience as we do everything in our power to protect and care for the animals in our facilities and in our community,” said Karen Froehlich, President & CEO of SPCA of Texas. “This situation indicates that canine distemper virus is circulating in the community, and the SPCA of Texas urges all pet owners to vaccinate all of their pets against all species-appropriate diseases under the direction of their veterinarian as well as to have their pet spayed or neutered and microchipped."

Canine distemper is a highly contagious virus and can be fatal. It can affect the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of dogs and ferrets as well as wildlife such as raccoons, foxes, coyotes and skunks. Cats and humans are not at risk for infection by canine distemper virus. It is spread through all respiratory secretions and bodily waste. Pet dogs and ferrets interacting with wildlife or exposed to their waste are at risk of contracting the canine distemper virus.

While young animals are the most vulnerable, unvaccinated dogs of all ages are susceptible. Symptoms range from no visible signs of illness to mild respiratory issues such as a runny nose and eyes to severe respiratory symptoms, thickened footpads or nose skin, seizures, neurological deficits and decline. Animals can be contagious for months.

There is no cure for canine distemper infection. Treatment includes supportive care, but some dogs do not survive.

“This disease is highly preventable when dogs are properly vaccinated," said Dr. Amber Alu, SPCA of Texas Chief Medical Officer. "The vaccine is effective and is far less expensive than treating the disease or losing your pet to the virus. I highly recommend all dog and ferret owners make sure their pets’ distemper vaccination is up to date. Dog owners should also use caution when socializing puppies or unvaccinated dogs where dogs congregate such as parks."

As a reminder, all SPCA of Texas animals are vaccinated on intake if no proof of vaccinations exists. But if the animal has not previously been vaccinated, it can take up to 2 weeks before any significant immunity to such viruses is achieved.

Updates will be provided as more information becomes available at spca.org/distemper.